The Common Loon is a long-bodied, duck-like, swimming bird with large webbed feet. The species can be identified by its straight, pointed bill and distinctive plumage. In winter, it is blackish above and whitish below, with a pale gray bill and a white throat. During the breeding season, its plumage shows a black and white checkered pattern on the back and necklace, along with a black head and bill.
Loons begin arriving to the Chesapeake Bay in September, migrating from their northern breeding grounds in Canada and the Great Lakes region of the United States. There, they nest and breed on land by the edge of woodland lakes and ponds.
By October and November, they can be found in the thousands along the open waters of the Bay, feeding on Atlantic Menhaden and other small fish.
These water birds are efficient hunters.
The common loon is a long-bodied, duck-like
swimming bird with large webbed feet, and a long, pointy bill.
In the winter, its plumage is blackish on top and whitish below,
and its bill turns grey. During the breeding season, it develops
a fantastic black-and-white checkerboard pattern on its back and
These migratory birds spend the fall months preparing for their flight back north, feasting on Atlantic menhaden and other small fish in the Bay. These water birds are efficient hunters. Loons dart at their prey with swift dives propelled by their powerful feet. Usually, they catch it and devour it underwater.
Maybe what these loons are most well know for, though, is their eerie night call, which has become an iconic sound of the northern wild.
Illustration of Common Loon courtesy of the US Fish & Wildlife Service