Loon Research

Science Center Objects

Scientists at the USGS Alaska Science Center have conducted research on Alaska’s three loon species since the late 1970s. Loons rely on freshwater lakes for nesting habitat and fish and invertebrates inhabiting lakes and marine ecosystems for food. All three loon species in Alaska occur within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) on Alaska’s northern coast. Research by the USGS is informing distribution and abundance of loons in northern Alaska and how they may respond to environmental and human changes to the northern landscape.

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A Red-throated Loon swimming in a small lake

A Red-throated Loon swimming in a small lake on the Colville River Delta.
(Credit: Ryan Askren, USGS. Public domain.)

The main objectives of the USGS Alaska Science Center loon research program are to: 

  • Provide ecological and demographic information on Alaska’s three loon species.
  • Determine mechanisms for population trends, particularly for the Red-throated Loon (declines noted across much of Alaska) and the Yellow-billed Loon (a candidate species for listing as ‘threatened’ from 2009 to 2014).
  • Provide science information to Department of Interior management agencies and others for their decision-making regarding loons.