© 2022 Maine Public
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Environment and Outdoors

Maine's annual loon count reveals an increase in adults but a dip in chicks

Jesse Costa
A loon chick translocated from Flagstaff Lake in Maine spreads her wings and looks out onto Assawompset Pond in Massachusetts, her new home, in 2020.

The results of this year's loon count showed an increase in adult birds to an estimated 3,446, continuing a long-term trend.

But Tracy Hart, who manages the count for the Maine Audubon Society, says the number of loon chicks was lower. Hart says over the last few decades, chick numbers have been pretty flat.

"But we have had dips along the way. It's just showing that natural fluctuation, though. Six times over the 38-year history of the count we've seen dips like this," she says.

Hart says a heavy spring rainstorm may have flooded loon nests. Other causes of the decline may be boats striking chicks, natural predators and the fact that some loons "simply take a break from nesting."

Hart says the state's ban on lead fishing lures has clearly helped the adult population. Hart says biologists have found the evidence by reviewing causes of death in loons over time.

"It went from, early years, before the ban, we had found there was a 32% cause of death by lead in adult loons. And now, in 2019 it was down to 18%, so it's a pretty big drop," she says.