Behavior And Reproduction

The loon is famous for its vocalizations, which have been described as eerie and haunting. The type of sound—a cry, wail, cackle, or laugh—depends on the species. Vocalizing is usually done on the breeding ground.

Loons are awkward on land because their feet are set so far back on their bodies. In order to fly, they need a good deal of land from which to take off; larger loons need as much as a quarter-mile (400 meters) to get a good start. They are powerful flyers, though, and have been clocked at 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers per hour).

Loons are monogamous (having just one mate) and mate for life, but are quick to replace that mate should it get lost. Both sexes build the nest, and they often return to that same nest every year. Nests are made of wet vegetation on land, or as a floating mat. Usually two eggs are laid, and parents work together to incubate them, or keep them warm. Incubation lasts twenty-four to thirty days. Chicks depend on parents for food but start diving on their own at three days old. In six to eight weeks, they can fly. Adult loons have few predators, but chicks make a fine meal for snapping turtles, eagles, gulls, and crows.

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