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Migration patterns and wintering distribution of common loons breeding in the Upper Midwest

June 9, 2021

Identification of geographic linkages among breeding, migratory and wintering common loon Gavia immer populations is needed to inform regional and national conservation planning efforts and compensation of loons lost during marine oil spill events. Satellite telemetry and archival geolocator tags were used to determine the migration patterns and wintering locations of breeding adult and young of the year juvenile common loons captured and marked on lakes in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Adult loons typically traveled from breeding lakes, often via larger staging lakes, to the Great Lakes (primarily Lake Michigan) and then on to wintering areas. Most radiomarked juvenile common loons utilized natal lakes or local lakes through mid-November. Subsequently, the first fall migration of juvenile loons was generally initiated later, and more direct and quicker to wintering areas relative to adults. Among adult (n = 103) and juvenile (n = 23) loons that completed fall migration, most wintered in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), with smaller proportions wintering off the southern Atlantic Coast or impoundments in the southeastern United States. Spring migration of adults to breeding lakes was less prolonged than fall migration, with adult male loons tending to depart wintering areas earlier than adult females. Juvenile common loons migrated during their first spring from wintering sites in the GOM to summer in the Gulf of St Lawrence/Nova Scotia Coastal region. Juvenile mortality was largely linked to parasitic infection and emaciation; spring appeared to be a survival bottleneck among juvenile loons monitored in our study. Our results identify several areas where common loon conservation efforts could be directed to protect key habitats and minimize stressors during the non-breeding period.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title Migration patterns and wintering distribution of common loons breeding in the Upper Midwest
DOI 10.1111/jav.02609
Authors Kevin P. Kenow, Luke J. Fara, Steven C. Houdek, Brian R. Gray, Darryl J. Heard, Michael W. Meyer, Timothy J. Fox, Robert Kratt, Scott L. Ford, Anette Gendron-Fitzpatrick, Carrol L. Henderson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Avian Biology
Series Number
Index ID 70223842
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center