Loon Lost

Gavia immerA Common Loon (Gavia immer) dead on the rocks at Bush Terminal Park. Gavia immerPaul Sweet, of the American Museum of Natural History, was there and showed us the prominent ridge of the sternum, which should have been smothered in fat and muscle. This suggested to him that this fish-devouring diver probably starved to death. Sometimes they swallow fishing tackle and other human detritus that prevents then from getting any food down. It’s a fate I wouldn’t wish on a fisherman. (Nah, just a slow tightening of monofilament around the wrists until the hands fall off.)

[Update: Paul sent me this link for more information about loon mortality.]
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In Scotland some years ago, excitement among my British van mates gathered as they discussed seeing a Great Northern Diver. What is that, I asked? Turned out to be “our” Common Loon, which, I think you’ll agree, is a lesser name.

I remember first hearing the haunting calls of these birds as a boy in Ontario. They don’t nest around NYC, so I hadn’t heard one in a while, but a few years ago in Lewis Bay, on Cape Cod (where they don’t nest either, as far as I know), I saw and heard one. It sent shivers up my spine.

Loons are winter visitors to our waters. We should treat them better. This is the first I’ve seen this year.

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