FALMOUTH -- Maine Audubon announced today that its 2007 Maine Loon Count recorded the highest number of loon chicks since the count started in 1983. The rise in young is a sharp one from 2006, when the count revealed the lowest number of chicks ever on record.
Using a sample of 66 water bodies from the 274 lakes surveyed by over 800 volunteers, Maine Audubon biologists have estimated southern Maine’s loon population at 2,432 adults and 422 chicks. While the number of adult loons is down for the second year in a row-6 percent from the year before-chick numbers jumped nearly 200 percent from 2006.
"The results were a pleasant surprise," said Maine Audubon biologist Susan Gallo, who coordinates the count, now in its 24th year. "2006 was definitely a tough year for breeding loons, so we were a little nervous going into the 2007 count. It was great to see the numbers of young bounce back."
Analysis showed fewer adult loons on lakes over 2,000 acres, which could have benefited loon chicks. Groups of non-breeding adult loons can threaten nesting loons. With fewer of these "rogue" loons inhabiting large lakes, loon parents could focus on protecting their eggs and chicks from predators.
Another contributor to the rise in loon chicks was the weather, which was more favorable than in 2006, when June rains flooded nests. Those conditions prompted chicks to hatch late in the season, decreasing their chances of survival. With a cold and wet July, 2007 was not ideal for raising loons, but conditions surprisingly didn’t seem to have a significant impact on loon productivity.
Maine Loon Count results, with breakdowns for each lake monitored, are available at www.maineaudubon.org/.
Separate survey completes second year
To find out more about how loon chicks fare on Maine lakes, Maine Audubon also coordinates a loon productivity survey. For the second annual study, 28 volunteers monitored 35 loon pairs on 22 lakes throughout the summer, keeping track of when the loons established their territories, when they nested, how many chicks they hatched, and how many young survived to six weeks of age.
Though a larger sample size is needed to yield more conclusive findings, 2007’s results show a productivity rate of .63, which is higher than what is thought to be the Northeast’s average rate of .5.
"Maine has the largest loon population in New England, but we know very little about how many chicks survive each year. We know a little bit for small regions or individual lakes, but no comprehensive state-wide productivity estimates have ever been made," said Gallo. "In the coming years we hope our survey will shed some light as to how well chicks fare in Maine."
Maine Audubon reprinting important loon guide
To educate people about loons and the challenges they face from development, toxins and lake activities, Maine Audubon is reprinting its Living in Loon Territory brochure this year thanks to funding from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund. Along with providing a calendar of what loons are doing throughout the summer, the guide highlights laws designed to protect loons and actions boaters and other lake-users can take to limit negative impacts from their activities. Groups and individuals are needed to help distribute the guide in time for summer.
For more information, contact Maine Loon Project director Susan Gallo at (207) 781-2330, ext. 216.
MAINE AUDUBON works to conserve Maine’s wildlife and wildlife habitat by engaging people of all ages in education, conservation and action.