Monday, November 3, 2014

Loons on the East Coast

Like many of us other season river rats, loons migrate to the river (and other northern lakes) each spring. Loons on the East Coast migrate from the southern Atlantic Coast ranging from Florida to the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to their excellent swimming abilities, they are also very agile in the air having been clocked at over 70 mph in flight. The one serious challenge for loons is getting from the water to the air. They are able to swim so well because their legs are located far back on their bodies. But this makes it difficult for them to lift-off in flight. In fact, they need anywhere from 30 yards, to a quarter mile, of a watery runway where they can flap their wings and run across the surface of the water to gain enough speed to take-off. No wonder the river is such an ideal location for them. Loons that migrate across interior North America will find large lakes and rivers to land on (and take back off from) on their way north and south each year.  One other down side to having their legs located so far back on their bodies is that loons are extremely awkward when trying to walk. That makes them virtually helpless on dry land. Occasionally a migrating loon will accidentally land on a wet parking lot or small pond mistaking it for a lake. Without the necessary open water needed for takeoff, the loons will be stranded. I’ve read of numerous rescues down by wildlife experts who will come and capture a stranded loon and carry it to a large enough body of water for it to be able to take off and continue its journey.

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