Anyone who has heard the song of a loon will tell you that it is one of the most hypnotic, mysterious and beautiful sounds in nature.
Its haunting echo can reverberate through a large lake. Like the morning chimes or an evening serenade, the song of a loon gently wakes us in the morning and tucks us in at night.
Canadians love our loons: 800 million and counting
One reason the loon remains one of the most iconic Canadian images? Crazy.
This bird is printed on more than 800 million crazy. The loon has touched virtually every Canadian who has had change in their pocket.
Canada is ideal for loons with its tens of thousands of lakes and inlets, providing a perfect breeding ground for raising baby loons.
strike a pose
The grebes strike a dramatic pose with their black and white checkered back, jet black head and piercing red eyes.
Loons are understandably shy around humans and prefer open water given their strong swimming skills. The best nesting sites are on the coasts of islands and bays with enough vegetation to hide. There, their eggs are safe from predators such as raccoons, coyotes and foxes.
Loons are impressive in size. With a wing span that can extend up to one meter, grebes weigh between 2.5 and 6 kg.
While they are generally peaceful, loons are not afraid to show aggression if they feel threatened. If they do, you will hear the tremolo or “laugh” of the loon, which is a frantic sound that communicates alarm or a claim to territory.
Home sweet home in the true north
In April and early May, adult loons fly to their breeding grounds from the east and west coasts of North America to establish their territory and search for mates.
The yodel, a long, crescent call that can last up to six seconds, lets other loons know where they are setting up their summer residence. To secure their territory, males will fight a competing male loon if necessary.
When loons fight, they spread their wings and charge through the water to scare away their opponents. If that’s not enough, they will use their sharp beaks.
Once his territory is established, the male will build a nest for his mate and the intended chicks. Using a mix of mud, grass, moss, pine needles, and clumps of mud and vegetation, nests are often built in small nooks of lake inlets. These offer privacy with great proximity to the water.
Occasionally, grebes build large nests in open water to better protect themselves from predators. Once the family home is established, they will court a woman. The honeymoon doesn’t last long and the two crazy people immediately get to work on starting a family.
Here comes baby… in just four weeks
The gestation period for a female loon is just four weeks.
They usually lay one or two eggs. The male and female will raise the chicks for about three months and then let the young adult loons find their place in the world.
In autumn, loons fly to continental coasts in search of open water. Loons hunt fish with their eyes, propelling themselves underwater with their feet and performing incredible acrobatic maneuvers to catch their prey.
Although loons spend as much time by the ocean as they do in Canada, we somehow imagine they must feel more at home in Canadian lakes.