MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The loon is the state bird in Minnesota, so it’s no surprise the bird prefers to hang out in tight groups of family only. They are territorial.
“When we usually see loons what we’re seeing is a pair or one,” said Pam Perry, a non-game wildlife specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “They don’t want any other loons there because other loons are a threat to their chicks.”
Perry leads a loon-spotting and tracking effort in the state.
And this time of year, she starts getting calls about a very strange site. Why would groups of loons be hanging out, not fighting, not feeding, just having fun?
“A group of loons will start a fly in, they’ll interact, swim around in circles, we call it a loon party. They seem to enjoy the socializing,” she said.
A loon party. Which also seems appropriate in Minnesota.
After a summer where many loons find a lover, hatch eggs and raise their chicks, some loons simply don’t get lucky.
“It takes awhile to find a mate, to find a lake that they can have a territory on that’s good for raising chicks,” said Perry.
The loons partying either failed at hatching eggs or failed at finding a mate. Maybe they’re commiserating, maybe they’re celebrating the fact that they don’t have kids to take care of.
“They’ll start doing this socializing thing where they come together in groups, and they’ll be very social,” Perry said.
While the bachelors and bachelorettes party, the successful, mom and dad loons head to big lakes like Mille Lacs and Superior.
“They start gathering in bigger numbers. It is absolutely staging before they go,” migrate to the south, Perry said.
The single loons stop will join the studs soon, then the chicks will follow and everyone flies south together. The bachelor and bachelorettes will try again next year. But the newborns stay south for three years.
“Because they’re not mature, not adults they’re going to stay on the ocean. That’s one of the reasons there’s been concern about the Gulf oil spill,” said Perry.
She said she won’t know until spring what the oil did to the 3-year-old loons who should be flying back to Minnesota.
In the meantime, if you see a dozen loons, having a crazy time right now, it’s nothing to be worried about.
“We enjoy socializing, people do, but so does wildlife sometimes, too,” laughed Perry.