I was hiking around a cool northern lake early in the morning when this gorgeous common loon (Gavia immer) sailed into view. Loons are iconic birds of unpolluted northern lakes—but that’s just half their identity. In the winter they do the avian equivalent of changing from Superman to Clark Kent. Their plumage (and even eye color) becomes drab, and many of them head out to sea. That’s why loons need both healthy lakes and oceans to survive.
These diving birds are found in the Northern U.S. and Canada. They spend most of their time in water and are awkward on land, coming ashore only to nest. They have solid bones and can expel air from their lungs and feathers to assist in diving. Their heart rate also slows while they are underwater, reducing their need for oxygen. Loons are fast flyers, reaching speeds up to 70 mph while migrating, although they need as much as a quarter mile of water to gain enough speed for takeoff. They eat mostly fish and occasionally invertebrates.
Loons by gluhm
Canada, British Columbia. Common Loon (Gavia Immer) adult feeds aquatic insect to chick. Shot from a kayak at Lac Le Jeune. An amazing trill to be with these magnificent birds on a still morning.
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