Loon Counts

Loons Pictures - 2015

This picture shows a new loon platform that was installed near the public access on Little Boy Lake. The loons apparently liked it right away and are using it this first year. Many thanks to Al Ritchie for making the platform and to Ron Stokesbary for placing it on top of the ice in January.

(photo by Brent Stokesbary)

This picture shows a platform near Randy Helland and Cindy Gackle's property on Little Boy Lake. This platform (also made by Al RItchie and installed by Al and Randy) has been in the water for a number of years. There is a large eagle nest almost directly overhead which accounts for the lack of success this loon pair has had. You can see the eagles are on the loon platform and the loons are in the water nearby.

(photo by Al Ritchie)

Loon Counts

We participate in a statewide DNR program to monitor and survey loons and report on the counts of adults and chicks. We watch for nesting loons in May and June. The survey count is taken the first week of July. In August and September, larger "groups" of loons are observed. The adults migrate in early September. Young loons stay at the northern lakes almost until freeze-up. They need to strengthen before heading south.

Little Boy Lake - monitored by Ron Stokesbary

2021 - 5 adult pairs, 0 chicks (the least since Ron has been counting)

2020 - 6 adult pairs, 8 chicks (the most since Ron has been counting)

2019 - 6 adult pairs, 4 chicks

2018 - 6 adult pairs, 6 chicks

2017 - 6 adult pairs, 5 chicks,

2016 - 12 adults, 3 chicks

2015 - 12 adults, 4 chicks

2014 - 12 adults , 4 chicks. 5 nest locations determined

2013 - 12 adults, 5 chicks. 5 nest locations determined

2012 - 12 adults, 5 chicks. 5 nest locations determined

2011 - 12 adults, 2 chicks. 5 nest locations determined

2010 - 12 adults, 4 chicks. 5 nest locations determined

2009 - 12 adults, 4 chicks

2008 - 12 adults, 2 chicks. 5 nest locations determined

2007 - 15 adults, 4 chicks. 3 nesting pairs were determined. Highest number of adults seen was 21.

2006 - 14 adults, 2 chicks. The location of one nest was determined and another nest location is suspected although not verified. The highest number of adults seen was 21.

Cooper - monitored by Russ Link (Camp Olson)

2008 - 2 adults, 0 chicks

2006 - 3 adults, 2 chicks

Wabedo - monitored by Bruce and Mary Jane Black

This data is from pairs that had nests. Wabedo usually has 5-6 pairs of loon occupancy. They stay and guard their own territory even if they are unable to nest or have their nest (eggs) fail.

2021 - 2 adult pairs, 0 chicks

2020 - 3 adult pairs, 4 chicks

2019 - 5 adult pairs, 7 chicks

2018 - 5 adult pairs, 3 chicks

2017 - 4 adult pairs, 7 chicks

2016 - 12 adults, 3 chicks

2014 - 11 adults, 5 pairs, 0 chicks

2013 - 8 adults, 2 nesting pairs and 1 chick

2012 - 11 adults, 2 nesting pairs and 2 chicks

2011 - 22 adults, 5 chicks.

2009 - 10 adults, 4 chicks

2008 - 13 adults, 2 chicks

2007 - 18 adults , 4 chicks. Ten loons were in a group in the middle basin.

2006 - 13 adults, 4 chicks

2005 - 3 adults, 0 chicks

Rice - monitored by Otto/Ann Geisbauer

2009 - 2 adults, 1 chick

2008 - 2 adults, 0 chicks

2007 - 2 adults, 2 chicks

2006 - 2 adults, 0 chicks

2005 - 2 adults, 1 chick

FYI - Statewide Information

For 2015, there were 800 Loon Watchers who reported on 307 lakes in 28 counties. in 2011, a total of 1,847 adult loons and 482 chicks were reported. According to the report forms, 235 loon nesting platforms were placed in lakes and 128 (55%) were used by nesting loons.

In 2015, Cass County had 43 loon watchers surveying 34 lakes and they reported 183 adults and 73 chicks.

Minnesota's state bird, the common loon, is more at home in the water than on land. Built like a torpedo, it swims under water in search of prey. Minnesota has more common loons than any other state except Alaska.

Loon Information

Loon migrations will be tracked this year (2010) for around ten loons. It should be interesting to see what happens to loons that migrate to the Gulf of Mexico with the oil spill vs loons that migrate to the Atlantic Coast. You can watch these migrations on the following site: Loon Migrations

On this site you can also select data from the 1998 study which studied the migrations of loons from Minnesota and Wisconsin to the Carolina coast, Florida coast and Gulf of Mexico.

Here is a very interesting article from a Professor Charles Walcott at Cornell. He has studied loons for over 18 years and has some interesting observations. A must-read ! !

Loon Behavior and Calls (will open a new window for an Abobe file)

Loon Facts

Loons' lives are filled with fun facts. For example:

  • The bones of most birds are hollow and light, but loons have solid bones.

  • The extra weight helps them dive as deep as 250 feet to search for food. They can stay underwater for up to five minutes.

  • Because their bodies are heavy relative to their wing size, loons need a 100- to 600-foot "runway" in order to take off from a lake.

  • Loons can fly more than 75 miles per hour.

  • The red in the loon's eye helps it to see under water.

  • Scientists think loons can live for 30 years or more.

Did You Know ?

Minnesota has about 12,050 loons.

Loons start to nest from the middle to the end of May. They generally lay 2 eggs which will hatch 27 to 29 days later. Loon eggs are 3 inches long with an olive green shell with dark spots.

Loon parents will leave the nest if watercraft comes within 500 feet of the nest. This leaves the nest without warmth or protection from predators.

Young chicks are not waterproof! They need to be able to climb on their parents’ back to stay warm and dry. Young chicks are also very buoyant and can’t dive very quickly or very deep.

General description:

Larger than a mallard but smaller than a goose, this water bird has a thick neck and a long, black bill. Its legs are set far back on its body, so it has an awkward gait on land. The male is slightly larger than the female, but otherwise the two sexes look identical.


Adult loons weigh 8 to 12 pounds.


The common loon has a black bill and a red eye. In summer it is a spotty black and white with a black/iridescent green head. In fall a "winter coat" that's gray above and white below replaces its summer plumage.


The common loon has four calls. The tremolo, which sounds a bit like maniacal laughter, is an aggressive call. The wail is a long, drawn-out sound. The hoot, a shorter call, is used to communicate among parents and young. The yodel is sounded by male loons guarding their territory.


Loons don't begin breeding until they are three or four years old. The male chooses a territory and attracts a mate. Together the male and female build a nest out of reeds and grasses on the edge of the water. They take turns incubating the one to two eggs the female lays. After 28 to 30 days blackish brown chicks emerge from the eggs, soon ready for a swim. One of the ways parents care for their young is to carry them on their backs to keep them safe from fish and turtle predators. Young loons don't fly until they are more than two months old.


Loons like fish - panfish, perch, ciscoes, suckers, trout, bullheads, smelt, and minnows. They also may eat frogs, leeches, crayfish, mollusks, salamanders, amphipods, and insects.


Adult loons rarely are eaten by other animals (except bald eagles), but their young can fall prey to skunks, raccoons, foxes, snapping turtles, northern pike, and muskies.

Habitat and range:

Loons are found on lakes throughout central and northeastern Minnesota. In September, Minnesota's adult loons travel to their winter home along the Atlantic coast from North Carolina south to Florida, or on the Gulf of Mexico. Younger loons follow a month or so later.