The Minnesota State bird is the loon which is one of the most beloved Minnesota State symbols. Children and adults alike love to try to imitate the haunting call of the state bird of Minnesota.
It's such a thrill to hear the call of a loon out on a lake and, finally, to get a glimpse of one of these stunning birds.
The official name of the Minnesota State Bird is the "Common Loon" which seems far from the right name for such an uncommon bird.
This very large bird is about thirty inches in length and has a wingspan of about five feet. An adult loon may weigh anywhere from six to thirteen pounds.
If you spot a loon on a Minnesota lake, one of the first clues that you are indeed looking at the state bird of Minnesota is its iridescent, greenish-colored head. A swimming loon is somewhat "hidden" on the lake by its black back and wings that are speckled with white spots. This coloring blends with a sun sparkled lake surface. The loon completes its outfit with a black and white striped band around its neck, an under coat of white feathers all accented with beautiful red eyes. This fancy finery is worn by the loon throughout the breeding season.
When autumn arrives, the loon dons more somber garb. Brown feathers
take the place of the black and white summer coat; the feathers on the
throat become white to match the belly and the flashing red eyes turn
Loon chicks are black and fluffy at first and, as they
grow, come to look very much like an adult loon dressed in winter garb
until they are between one and two years old.
There are about 12,000 loons in Minnesota...more than in any other state except Alaska.
The Minnesota State quarter includes an image of a loon.
In winter, loons migrate to the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic coast.
Loons can live to be thirty years old.
Loons have solid bones; most other birds have hollow bones.
Lake Vermilion has one of the largest populations of loons in Minnesota.
You might see a loon on any Minnesota lake however your chances are greater on the larger, and farther north, lakes.
You Likely Know That the Minnesota State Bird Has a Distinctive Call.
Often, while camping by a lake, our kids would spend a great deal of time perfecting their "loon calls" in the hope of a response from a real loon. Once in a while it would actually happen. What many people don't know is that the Common Loon has four different calls.
The Hoot: is a social vocalization. It is used to communicate with their mates, chicks and other loons.
The Wail: is the eerie, haunting vocalization we think of when we talk about a loon call. This call is kind of an "is anyone else out there?" call that is used to check if there are other loons nearby.
The Tremolo: sounds a bit like a slightly hysterical laugh. It is actually a call of fear or annoyance. A loon will make this call if it feels threatened.
The Yodel: is a territorial call made by a male loon. It is a warning call and will most often be heard when a male loon is defending a nest of incubating eggs.
While the loon population in Minnesota appears to be relatively stable, and even showing a slight increase, we can take some steps to help protect the state bird of Minnesota:
Become a Volunteer Loon Watcher: if you live on or near a lake in Minnesota you may be able to help monitor the loon population on "your" lake. For information about the program, call or email Pam Perry at firstname.lastname@example.org or (218) 828-2228.
Loons nest on shore. If you have lake property, leave the shoreline in its natural condition to provide for loon nesting.
Resist the temptation to approach a loon nest, either from shore or by boat. A nesting loon that is disturbed may abandon the nest for a long period of time leaving her eggs or chicks vulnerable to a predator. Enjoy the loons from a distance using binoculars.
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