Loon eggs may hatch on live webcam Saturday, July 8

  • A photo from the Loon Preservation Committee nest webcam, July 2017. Loon Preservation Committee—Courtesy

Monitor Staff
Friday, July 07, 2017

A live webcam may capture the hatching of two loon eggs on a nest in the Lakes Region today, and if you get a chance to watch keep this in mind: Those parents probably aren’t as young as you think.

“Last year we realized that the loon we had captured to band was actually older than our field biologist,”  said John Cooley, senior biologist with Loon Preservation, which runs the nest webcam.

Loons, which often return yearly to the same nesting sites and with the same mates, are related to other long-lived aquatic fowl such as albatrosses, said Cooley. Last year an albatross known to be at least 66 years old laid and hatched an egg in Hawaii.

Loons may not be quite that elderly but, Cooley said, “It wouldn’t be surprising to think there are loons out there pushing 50.”

Loons in New England were first marked with leg bands, which allows researchers to identify specific birds from year to year, in 1993. One that was already an adult when banded back then is still around, Cooley said, meaning the bird, which hatched chicks last year, is at least 25 years old and probably closer to 30.

The Moultonboro-based Loon Preservation Committee was founded in 1975 to help save preserve the iconic waterbird. As part of its mission in recent years, it has been streaming online images from loon nests.

One loon pair hatched eggs for a different webcam in June. Indications are that eggs at another nest are about to hatch, perhaps on Saturday.

“The chick inside starts making noise that adults can hear. It alerts adult to be more attentive,” Cooley said.

The Loon Preservation Committee does not reveal the location of nests being filmed to keep gawkers away, saying only that it is in the Lakes Region.

Similar webcams have become popular as a way for outdoor organizations to gather support and educate the public.

Such education isn’t always entertaining, however.

Loons typically lay two eggs but half either do not hatch or their chicks don’t live to leave the nest. It’s not uncommon for the larger chick to attack the smaller one, sometimes fatally.

“It can be hard to watch up close and have front-row seats. But that’s part of what we’re appreciating – the difference between a loon’s life and what we think of it,” said Cooley. “We want people to realize that these are wild birds and their life is pretty wild.” 

And being wild isn’t always pretty.

To watch the webcam, visit loon.org.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)