Freeport, Maine (AP), a popular Maine species, the common loon’s population, has declined for the second consecutive year. Wildlife surveyors, however, are encouraged by the increased number of chicks.
Maine is home to the most common loons of any state in the east. It’s also a vital breeding ground for the species. In some New England states, and even beyond, the loons have been listed as threatened or endangered.
Maine Audubon which counts loons every year said that based on the results of this year it projected a population of 2,892. This is a slight decrease from the previous year and approximately 16% below the total for 2021.
Maine Audubon biologists are not worried because of the increase in loon chicks from 298 to 411 in this year. Maine Audubon representatives say that the species’ future remains bright, as its population has nearly doubled since the count began 40 years earlier.
Hannah Young, Maine Audubon’s coordinator of the loon count said: “This was an enormous jump.” We’re hoping this will show up in about six years when we see an increase in adults.
The common loon is a large and sturdy waterbird with a long, sharp bill that breeds on lakes and ponds. They return to the same bodies of water year after year. The loons are known for their haunting, ghostly calls. They are also a Canadian cultural icon and a favorite birdwatcher.
It is not the first instance that Maine’s loon populations have declined during a period of rapid recovery. Maine Audubon’s data shows that similar drops in population occurred from 2005 to 2007, and again between 2018 and 2020.
Conservationists in the United States have worked to protect loons for many decades. They have also been working on eliminating lead fishing gear, which they can ingest and die from. Maine Audubon says that this year Maine passed a law to end the use and sale of painted fishing tackle. This will benefit the birds. The group stated that lead poisoning is “one of the most common causes of death” for adult loons.
There are also efforts underway to rebuild loon population in other states. This includes Massachusetts which has only a handful of breeding pairs.