RESEARCH ON TERRITORIAL BEHAVIOR OF LoonS
After 22 years of scientific research on marked individuals, we have a firm grip on many aspects of the territorial behavior of common loons. Loons breed in socially monogamous pairs. While we showed long ago that loons do not mate for life, as people commonly believe, both members of breeding pairs do tend to return year after year to the same small lake or portion of a large lake. So lake residents are often correct when they hear a loon call in early May and remark, “The loons are back!”. Our surprising finding that male loons select the nest site gives males a much greater stake in remaining on a familiar territory, which might help us understand why males commonly fight to the death for their territory, while females rarely do so. These findings and many others related to territorial behavior and habitat settlement are described under “Findings“. We have provided links to scientific papers there, but you can also look at our popular articles, which are a bit easier to read.
Study of The Loon Population
One benefit of our behavioral research is that it allows us to monitor the loon population in northern Wisconsin using a large sample of marked individuals. In the course of our study, we have measured both adult and juvenile survival and produced a robust estimate of population stability. Look under “Findings” > “How healthy is the loon population in northern Wisconsin?” for more information and copies of our published papers related to population dynamics.
UPDATES FROM THE LOON PROJECT: THE LP BLOG
The Loon Project is ongoing. This site enables us to describe recent findings, activities and accomplishments for folks who are interested. Check out “LP Blog” for the most up-to-date information. If you are really gung ho, sign up to “follow” the blog and receive an e-mail each time I add a new post. During the breeding season (May to August), I provide frequent updates of what we are seeing in the field — nests, chicks, territorial battles and so forth. At all times of year, I will let you know about papers that we are publishing and presentations we have made.
We make available here video that shows what our leg-banded loons look like (under “Why Band Loons?”). In addition, if you look under “Findings” > “How does a loon acquire a territory?”, you can watch a couple of vicious battles between loons for ownership of a territory.
Who We Are
The project is directed by Walter Piper of Chapman University in Orange, California. But I have had academic and field assistance from numerous collaborators over the years and support from many lake residents, who let us view loons on their lakes. The unsung heroes of the project are research assistants, who work countless hours collecting data on loons, usually as a means to get field experience in preparation for a career in animal behavior, ecology or wildlife biology. Many research assistants take on side projects that allow them to devise a new means of data collection or an experiment, which can be written up for presentation or even publication after the season. To find out more about the people on the study, look under People.
The National Science Foundation has provided funding for our work over the past 10 years. Prior to 2003, we received funding from the National Geographic Society, Disney Conservation Fund, Chapman and Cornell Universities…and Mom and Dad.