MOULTONBOROUGH — The Loon Preservation Committee (LPC) reports that loon chicks are hatching on lakes around the state just in time for the July 4th holiday, making them more vulnerable to disturbance as human activity increases on the lakes.
If you see an adult loon with chicks please make sure to stay at least 150 feet from them so the parents can concentrate on feeding and caring for their chicks. If the adult shows any signs of distress such as craning its neck low over the water, thrashing about in the water, or vocalizing, give them more space. Newly hatched chicks are small, dark and cannot dive, so please use caution if you are traveling by boat. Boat collisions are the greatest human-related cause of chick mortality and the third highest cause of adult loon mortality after lead poisoning from ingested fishing tackle and injuries from monofilament line or other fishing tackle.
Last year Loon Preservation Committee biologists floated a record number of rafts to help loons nest and protected a record number of nesting pairs with signs and ropeline. They recorded 157 loon chicks hatched but 24% of those chicks did not survive. Studies indicate that a minimum breeding success rate of 0.48 surviving chicks per loon pair is needed to maintain the loon population over the long term, but New Hampshire's loons have achieved that level of breeding success in only two out of the last eight years. LPC biologists are hoping for a more productive breeding season this year for the state-threatened loon population.
"A late ice-out and therefore late start to nesting means that loons will either have very young chicks or still be on the nest over the July 4th weekend" said Harry Vogel, Senior Biologist/Executive Director of the Loon Preservation Committee. "In either case, it's imperative that we give them some space to minimize disturbances at these very vulnerable times in their life cycles."
Loons are a threatened species in New Hampshire and are protected by state and federal laws from hunting or harassment, including following adults with chicks. If you observe harassment of loons, contact the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department (603-271-3361) or Marine Patrol (603-293-2037) for assistance. The Loon Preservation Committee would also like to remind everyone to leave your lead tackle at home if you are fishing on the lakes this summer, as lead poisoning from ingested lead tackle is the largest known cause of adult loon mortality in New Hampshire.
The Loon Preservation Committee monitors loons throughout the state as part of its mission to restore and maintain a healthy population of loons in New Hampshire; to monitor the health and productivity of loon populations as sentinels of environmental quality; and to promote a greater understanding of loons and the natural world.