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A Day In The Life of Common Loons

Loon with FishLoons spend their days feeding, preening, resting, and caring for their young. Their diet in summer consists primarily of fish, and loons eat mostly perch, suckers, catfish, sunfish, smelt, and minnows. Loons will also eat crayfish, frogs, leeches, and snails.

Loon stretching legLoons sometimes spend long periods resting motionless on the water. They may rouse themselves to stretch a leg or wing at intervals, occasionally comically waggling a foot above water. Loons peer underwater and move their heads from side to side to locate prey. During dives, loons compress their feathers and force air from between the feathers and from air sacs in the body. This ability also allows loons to quietly sink below the water's surface in response to perceived threats.

Loon take offAdult loons may fly to different lakes to feed, but the adaptations that make loons such efficient divers also make them heavy and slow to take wing. To take off from a lake, loons run along the surface into the wind. The distance needed to gain flight depends on wind speed; on a calm day a loon might run as far as several hundred meters before it gains enough speed to take off. Once in the air, the loon's relatively small wingspan (130-140 cm) carries it at average speeds of up to 80 miles per hour.

The placement of a loon’s legs at the far back of the body means that loons can not easily walk on land. This difficulty is one reason why a loon’s nest is built right next to the water. At night, loons sleep over deep water, away from land, for protection from predators.