Special Projects

Promoting Loon-friendly Lakes

Educating lake users and residents is the most effective safeguard for loon populations in Canada. Educational materials about loons and loon-friendly activities are distributed through the CLLS to cottage associations, schools, and the general public. Talks are given to cottage associations and local, volunteer "Loon Ambassadors" help spread the message of loon-friendly lakes.

The CLLS distributes "Loon Nesting Area" signs in order to warn lake users to keep away from these sensitive sites. Also the CLLS produces "Loon Alert" signs that remind lake users about the ways in which they can reduce their impact on loons. Loon alert signs are helpful at marinas, launches, or any other high traffic areas. If you are interested in obtaining either sign, please contact Kathy Jones at aqsurvey@birdscanada.org for information on their availability in your area.
 

Floating Loon Nesting Platforms

In an effort to minimize effects of water level changes and shoreline degradation, the CLLS provides building plans for constructing floating nest platforms. Platforms can adjust to sudden water level changes and can provide an alternative nesting site where shoreline development displaces loons from traditional locations. Building and placing nest platforms is labour-intensive, however, and platforms are not a solution to the challenges facing loons with young. In locations where loons are successfully hatching chicks, a platform is not necessary and may decrease nesting success. But, if you regularly see paired loons but no chicks, a nesting platform may be a viable and effective option. To download the platform instructions, click here.

Collection of Loon Eggs and Carcasses

The CLLS asks that volunteers who find dead loons or unhatched loon eggs to submit them to the appropriate centre for analyses. Dead loons are sent to the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre for necropsies and toxicological analyses. Unhatched eggs can be submitted to Environment Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS). Results of these analyses are made available to federal and provincial wildlife agencies, and tissues from carcasses and eggs are stored in the CWS Specimen Bank (a national archive of biological specimens) for future research. Dead loons are often not discovered due to their sparse distribution and secretive nature. However, when found, they are an important source of information about factors causing loon mortality.

To participate, please download the Loon Mortality Survey reporting form and contact the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre office prior to sending the package to them. To submit a loon egg, download the egg collection form and contact the egg analysis office at the Canadian Wildlife Service prior to sending the package. Contact information is provided on the relevant forms. Please read all instructions before removing or shipping eggs or dead loons and do not send packages prior to receiving confirmation from the appropriate research agency.

Botulism

One form of loon mortality that can affect loons during fall migration is botulism. Periodic outbreaks of Type E botulism are known to kill thousands of loons as they migrate through the lower Great Lakes. Four years of serious die-offs occurred in the Lake Erie basin between 1999 and 2002. Research is ongoing to identify what parts of Lake Erie harbour the bacterium Clostridium botulinum that produces the botulism-causing toxin, and which specific pathway(s) this pathogen follows to get into the food chain. Bird Studies Canada will continue to play a role in helping to understand and address this important threat to loons and other migratory waterbirds. If you find dead loons or other waterbirds along a Great Lake, contact the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre, once you have reviewed the Loon Mortality Survey reporting form.











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