Fewer loon chicks surviving because of climate change, researchers say

Sheryl Devore, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Lifestyles

In 2020, nearly all loons nesting in 108 lakes abandoned their nests due to black flies, and that is related to climate change, Piper said. “Only three breeding pairs were able to nest because of black flies,” he said.

Tozer said what’s happening with loons in one breeding region may be different from another.

“I think it’s going to vary regionally, what the problem is,” he said. “Water clarity looks like one of the smoking guns in Walter Piper’s area. Southern Canada, it might be mercury. In other places, it will be something else.”

But the reasons, they believe, are all related to climate change. They are working with postdoctoral students to analyze data on loons throughout North America. This information includes long-term data from research projects in individual states and across particular regions.

“We cannot control rainfall or climate change,” Piper said. “It’s an ocean liner we can’t turn around rapidly.


“If there are changes people can make, it would be to take better care of their shorelines,” he said.

​Piper said more research is needed to find ways to help loons so people like Johnson can continue to watch them, hear their otherworldly calls and introduce them to others.

“I am crazy about loons,” Johnson said.

He’s been that way since he was 18 years old and heard his first calling loon in northern Wisconsin. “It was a starry night and the loon was wailing,” he recalled. “They still nest there …. I think.”

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