The loon, a special symbol in Canada

The loon – which has several names, including “great northern diver” – is one of Canada’s best representatives of the wildness of nature. It is on our dollar coin and is Ontario’s ornithological emblem.  Its call, a plaintive yodel along with tremolos and hooting (“laughing”), is heard every summer on the freshwater lakes of the boreal forest where the bird nests.

At about 1.5 metres in length and weighing up to 8 kg, the loon is almost as big as a goose and twice the size of a mallard duck. The two sexes have identical black and white plumage, but the male is double the size of the female. Because its feet are located towards the rear of its body, the loon is rather awkward on land.

The relatively short length of its wings compared to its weight requires it to take a strenuous run-up to take off. In the water, however, the loon is impressive. It can dive as deep as 70 m and remain submerged for more than 10 minutes as it looks for food or to escape danger.

In general, dives of less than two minutes are long enough for it to catch the crayfish, small fish and amphibians it finds so delicious. It completes its diet with insects, aquatic plants and leeches.

The loon’s nest is a simple hollow in an imposing mass of vegetation built on a islet, a muskrat mound (“push-up”) or on the bank close to the water so that the bird only has to slide on its belly to access or return to the water. The clutch of two young leave the nest upon hatching. You can sometimes see them on the back of the adults as the latter patrol their territory.

In those first weeks, the chicks are highly vulnerable and can be taken by a gull or large pike. Avoid coming too close to them, as that can force them to separate from their parents. With luck, they can live for thirty or so years.

The loon is one of the stars at Animalium, Mont-Tremblant’s zoological museum.

 

 

By the same author: The grey squirrel through the seasons (Click the image below)

 

Jacques Prescott83 Posts

Jacques Prescott est biologiste, professeur associé à la Chaire en éco-conseil de l’Université du Québec à Chicoutimi et co-fondateur de l’Animalium, le musée zoologique de Mont-Tremblant. Spécialiste de la biodiversité et du développement durable, il est l’auteur de nombreux livres et articles sur la faune et la conservation de la nature. Il nous fait l’honneur de rejoindre notre équipe de collaborateurs et signera chaque mois une chronique intitulée Faune et flore. / Jacques Prescott is a biologist, associate professor with the Chair in Eco-Counselling of the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, and co-founder of Animalium, the zoological museum of Mont-Tremblant. A specialist in biodiversity and sustainable development, he is the author of numerous books and articles about wildlife and nature conservation. He has honoured us by joining our team of contributors and will write a monthly column entitled Wildlife and Habitat.

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