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Common loon adult and young. Photo: Nina Schoch
Common loon adult and young. Photo: Nina Schoch

How are Adirondack loons doing, anyway?

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If you're on the water you might see one of the region's most iconic birds, the loon, or hear its haunting cry. Loons have been on the upswing, and those encounters that were once a rare treat are now becoming more common. But even though loon populations are on the rise, they still face some serious threats.

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Reported by

Sarah Harris
Reporter and Producer

Nina Schoch is a wildlife veterinarian who coordinates the Biodiversity Research Institute's Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation. She says generally, the Adirondack loon population is doing pretty well. "Not only are the numbers increasing but they're also expanding their range across New York State, where we have more loons showing up on more lakes and more breeding loons showing up."

But Schoch says the region's loons aren't totally in the clear. Last fall, hundreds of loons that migrated through Lake Erie and Lake Ontario died from botulism, which they got from eating invasive species, like quaga mussels and round gobies.

Shoch says 21 percent of the region's male loons and 8 percent of the region's female loons have high mercury levels in their systems that could affect their reproductive capacity. And Schoch says loons also face threats from humans -- and from each other: "We're seeing more human disturbance of loons, we're seeing more fishing line entanglements, and we're also seeing more loon-loon interactions where loons are fighting to defend territories and they actually are starting to kill each other's chicks."

This year the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation is working to better protect loon nests on lakes where people camp a lot. They'll put up rope lines and signs. They're also putting cameras near loon nests across the Adirondacks, to determine how human activity, development and water acidity affect nesting success.

The center's field season was shortened last summer because of funding cuts. They have a full field season planned for this summer.

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