MOULTONBOROUGH—The Loon Preservation Committee (LPC) recorded its first pair of nesting loons this year on May 18th. Since then, over 35 pairs have begun incubating their eggs, with more expected in the next week. The peak time for loons to begin nesting is usually in early June. Loons incubate their eggs for 26-28 days, so many loon chicks hatch just before the July 4th holiday.
Nesting loons and loon chicks are vulnerable to disturbance as human activities increase on lakes, so the Loon Preservation Committee asks boaters to take the following precautions to help protect loons and ensure a good breeding year in New Hampshire:
• Remain at least 150 feet (no wake distance) from a nesting loon or more if the loon shows any signs of distress such as craning its neck low over a nest. When threatened by the close approach of humans, loons assume this head-down position and may flush from the nest into the water, leaving their eggs vulnerable to overheating, cooling, or predation.
• If boaters inadvertently cause a loon to flush from the nest, leave the area immediately to let the loon return to incubate its eggs.
• Remain at least 150 feet from loons in the water, especially if the adults have chicks with them. If separated from their parents by boaters, loon chicks become vulnerable to predators.
In 2018, Loon Preservation Committee biologists recorded 226 pairs of nesting loons in New Hampshire, an increase of 24 nesting pairs from the previous year. This increase was the result of several new loon territories being established, including both new territories on large lakes that already had at least one other pair of nesting loons and expansion onto previously unoccupied lakes. Of the 226 nesting pairs, 47 nested on rafts—artificial islands that LPC floats to help loons cope with water level fluctuations, predation, and lack of suitable natural breeding sites. 114 nesting pairs were protected with signs and rope lines, which help to ensure that boaters give nesting loons enough space.
Anyone wanting to observe nesting loons without putting the nest at risk by getting too close can do so at the Loon Preservation Committee’s LIVE loon cam at www.loon.org. The loon cam pair started nesting on May 24th and are expected to hatch between June 22-24. Highlights from the webcam can be viewed on the Loon Preservation Committee’s YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/LoonCenter).
Loons are a threatened species in New Hampshire and are protected from hunting or harassment by state and federal laws. If you see a sick or injured loon, please call the Loon Preservation Committee (603-476-5666). If you observe harassment of loons, please contact the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department (603-271-3361) or Marine Patrol (603-293-2037) for assistance.
The Loon Preservation Committee monitors loons throughout the state as part of its mission to restore and maintain a healthy population of loons in New Hampshire; to monitor the health and productivity of loon populations as sentinels of environmental quality; and to promote a greater understanding of loons and the natural world. To learn more about loons in New Hampshire, please visit the Loon Preservation Committee at www.loon.org or call 603-476-5666.