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Survival of Common Loon chicks appears unaffected by Bald Eagle recovery in northern Minnesota

May 12, 2023

Recovering species are not returning to the same environments or communities from which they disappeared. Conservation researchers and practitioners are thus faced with additional challenges in ensuring species resilience in these rapidly changing ecosystems. Assessing the resilience of species in these novel systems can still be guided by species’ ecology, including knowledge of their population size, life history traits, and behavioral adaptations, as well as the type, strength, and number of ways that they interact with other species in the community. We summarized broad trends of Common Loons (Gavia immer) breeding at Voyageurs National Park from 1973 to 2009, and evaluated the effects of increased risk from recovering Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) on chick survival from 2004 to 2006. Adult Common Loons appear to have increased over time. Using Bayesian survival models that accounted for imperfect detection of unmarked individuals, we determined that chick survival of Common Loons was high from year to year and was unrelated to predation risk from Bald Eagles because chicks in territories closer to active nests did not experience greater mortality than those farther away. We suggest that Common Loon chicks were unaffected by the recovery of this top predator during the three years of sampling. Previous research indicates that Bald Eagles and other predators are an important source of egg losses, but Common Loons can compensate by re-nesting. Despite current uncertainties from anthropogenic threats, knowledge of a species’ ecology remains instrumental in determining its resilience during recovery.

Publication Year 2023
Title Survival of Common Loon chicks appears unaffected by Bald Eagle recovery in northern Minnesota
DOI 10.5751/ACE-02395-180107
Authors Jennyffer Cruz, Steve K. Windels, Wayne E. Thogmartin, Shawn M. Crimmins, Benjamin Zuckerberg
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Avian Conservation and Ecology
Index ID 70243557
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle; Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center