Dear Bird Folks:
For the past month or so I have been seeing what I think are Common Loons in different areas of the Cape. I’ve always thought that loons are birds of the northern lakes. Am I really seeing loons?”
– Tom, Dennisport
Glad that you are paying attention. Those really are loons that you are seeing. We can see loons year round here on the Cape, even in the summer. Just take a ride down Route 6 on a Saturday, there will be loons coming in from all over, usually with bikes and coolers tied to the roof of their cars.”
You are correct to think of loons being on northern lakes. From June to September that is where most loons are, breeding, nesting and raising families. The loons that you are seeing are the non-breeders, the losers. These birds are non-breeders for an assortment of reasons. They could be too young, too old, not well, or have too much acne. For whatever the reason, these birds didn’t make it to the breeding grounds, so they hang out with us.
Since many of these non-breeders are young loons, they probably won’t have the typical stylin’ black and white loon summer plumage. Instead, they’ll look closer to their rather dull winter plumage. And, as you may have already found out, the loons that are here in the summer (or anytime of year) spend almost all of the time in saltwater. Why do they move to saltwater? That’s easy, northern lakes freeze up in the winter and southern lakes have way to many snakes in them. And loons are petrified of snakes. Wait, it’s me who is petrified of snakes, not loons. Forget that last line.