Big Year for Loon Capture

After last night’s work, we had banded 54 loon chicks and 16 new adults and had recaptured 37 adults that had been banded previously. (Recaptures permit us to replace lost or faded bands and weigh individuals to assess their body condition.) Since we are only about two-thirds of the way through our banding for the year and have already surpassed last year’s totals, this is turning out to be a big year for loon capture.

There are a couple of different reasons for our success at banding this summer. First, more breeding pairs than average produced chicks, the lack of blackfly abandonments more than offsetting the slight negative impact of a very late spring. Second, the field crew — Kristin, Gabby, Mari and Jacki — have done a great job of finding new breeding pairs on outlying lakes that have chicks. We can only capture adults reliably when they have chicks, because we rely upon adults’ protectiveness of chicks to approach them with spotlights at night. So when we find new pairs with chicks, we can: 1) band the adults and add new territories to the study area, and 2) band the chicks and have a 50% chance of seeing them again, as adults, in 3-6 years, as they search for breeding territories and mates.

We are excited to have banded so many loons this year. Kudos to the 2013 loon crew for their hard work, which has ensured productive behavioral research in the study area in 2014 and beyond!