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Mainers, mark your calendars! Annual loon count set for July 17

Maine Audubon uses the statewide snapshot to estimate the annual population and track population trends across the decades.

MAINE, USA — For nearly four decades, Maine Audubon has been studying threats to loons and engaging volunteers across Maine in conservation efforts. One of the group's most powerful and popular tools is the annual loon count, scheduled this year for Saturday, July 17, from 7 to 7:30 a.m.

Traditionally, on the third Saturday of July, participants head out in skiffs, kayaks, and pontoon boats to tally the common loons they see on more than 300 lakes across the state. Last year, even with the pandemic, Maine Audubon said 1,347 volunteers of all ages and 48 regional coordinators were able to safely carry on the tradition.

Maine Audubon uses the statewide snapshot to estimate the annual population and track population trends across the decades. The information helps biologists, state officials, and Maine lake-users understand more about the loons’ status and the health of Maine’s lakes.

“The count gives us a window into the status and changes in Maine’s Common Loon population over time,” Maine Audubon wildlife ecologist Tracy Hart, who leads the annual loon count, said.

Maine Audubon said Maine’s loon population is currently going strong. Since the loon count’s inception in 1983, the number of adult loons in the southern half of the state has essentially doubled, from an initial estimate of fewer than 1,500 to nearly 3,000 in 2020, according to Maine Audubon.

Officials are also reminding Mainers that humans can be a threat to loons too.

“As motorboat operators, kayakers, and other lake users are getting back out on the water this year, please remember that trauma from collisions with boats is a leading cause of loon deaths and the toll is rising. Boat wakes can also flood nests and disturbance can cause loons to abandon their nests," Hart said. "We encourage people to slow down, especially near islands and lakeshores, stay away from loon families, and learn to read the signs—like a tremolo—that loons use to tell you that you’re just too close. Also, as you plan for your 4th of July celebrations, please take extra care to look out for loon families trying to stay safe amongst the holiday boat traffic. Just as it is for our pets, the noise and lights of fireworks can be alarming and even harmful for wildlife."

More information, including Maine Audubon’s “Living in Loon Territory” brochure, is available at maineaudubon.org/loons.

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