Aiding Loon Chick Survival in Maine

by Maggie Shannon, Maine Lakes Society and Susan Gallo, Maine Audubon

(published in the Fall 2016 Maine Lakes Society Newsletter)

LoonMaine has the largest population of Common Loons in the northeast, with more than 4,000 individuals spending summers on our lakes and ponds and many more wintering off our coast. Protecting water quality, reducing disturbance, minimizing predators and eliminating potential threats like lead tackle help protect loon habitat and can increase the survival rate of chicks.

Common Loons are long-lived birds with low levels of reproductive success. They lay two eggs each year in their lakeside nests, but only one out of every four chicks will survive to adulthood. After that, it is typically another seven years before these birds mature and begin to breed. Therefore, every adult Common Loon on Maine’s lakes and ponds represents a huge investment of time, energy, resources and experience that is not easy to replace, and not every adult gets the opportunity to reproduce.


Dennis and Leslie Volpe of West Harbor Pond Watershed Association were the first to receive the new LoonSmart Award of Merit.

Becoming LoonSmart
Loons are visual predators. They need clean, clear water in order to feed, breed, and successfully raise their offspring. This is why Maine Audubon and the Maine Lakes Society have joined up to add a special Award of Merit, called LoonSmart, to the lake protection standards of the Society’s highly successful LakeSmart program. Being LoonSmart means fishing lead free, collecting discarded monofilament line, maintaining headway speed within 200 feet of the shore and keeping your distance from loons, especially during their nesting period from mid-May to July 15. Covering trash and feeding pets indoors so as to avoid attracting predators is another LoonSmart habit. That’s almost all there is to it, except for earning the coveted LakeSmart Award!

The Good Stewardship Award

LakeSmart provides participating lakeside homeowners with individually designed recommendations for protecting water quality and recognizes those whose properties cause no harm to the lake. The Maine Lakes Society trains lake association volunteers to assess a parcel’s capacity to capture and infiltrate runoff and suggest approved measures to address shortcomings. When judged not to damage water quality, a property is certified to be LakeSmart, and its owners receive the blue and white LakeSmart Award signs. Posted at the water’s edge and at the driveway entrance, they signal that a good lake steward owns the property. They also demonstrate what lake friendly living is and thus communicate without words to the whole lake community. Lake associations across the state currently host the LakeSmart program.

What happens on land ends up in the water. The increasing number of violent storms we are experiencing today adds to existing pressures on lakes and loons from population pressure. It’s more urgent now than ever before to build lake resilience with LakeSmart’s common sense land management.