Micha Miller with Biodiversity Research Institute talks about loons Thursday afternoon, June 6, at the Academy Hill School in Wilton. Friends of Wilson Lake sponsored the presentation. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

WILTON — Third grade students at Academy Hill School learned all about loons Thursday afternoon, June 6, thanks to a presentation by Micha Miller with Biodiversity Research Institute which was made possible by Friends of Wilson Lake [FOWL].

Miller said there are five kinds of loons, two of which are found in Maine. Loons have been around for more than 70 million years, he noted. Loon types are Pacific, Arctic, yellow-bellied, red-throated and common, he stated. The common loon is the most familiar type seen in Maine although there are some red-throated loons in the state, he noted. “The common loon is the only ones that breed in Maine,” he said.

Miller shared the calls each type makes, noting every loon species sounds different. The size of loons also varies, he said.

Male common loons are about 13 pounds, the females about 10, he stated. The largest loon ever measured was nearly 17 pounds, the biggest chicken is at most 10, he said.

For comparison, tom turkeys in Maine are about 20 pounds, a very large eagle weighs about 12, Miller shared. It’s all related to water, he noted. “Eagles feed on fish, fly around, grab fish out of the water,” he said. “Loons go underwater to catch fish.”

In summer loons live and breed in northern North America with one chick hatching first, after breeding some loons go to coastal parts of Mexico to spend the winter, Miler said. “Those that go the furthest north go the furthest south in winter,” he stated. Some loons stay in Maine winter and summer, have gray plumage in winter, look much different than they do in summer, he noted.

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Loons eat fish, crabs, crayfish, invertebrates, anything they can catch in the water, Miller said. “They rarely eat any plants,” he stated. Crabs have very little in their legs compared to their body, loons use their bills to beat the legs off then eat the body whole, he explained.

Third grade student Rosalie Allain raises her hand Thursday afternoon, June 6, to answer a question during a loon presentation at Academy Hill School in Wilton. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

“Loon chicks eat half of their body weight every day,” Miller said. “As the chicks get bigger they become good at diving. The parents stop feeding them and they have to learn how to fish on their own. Loons have big feet which allows for diving.”

Miller went over several characteristics and traits loons exhibit. He described territorial and nesting behaviors, explained the different sounds loons make and what each vocalization means.

Threats to loons include lead fishing tackle, acid rain, contaminants such as mercury, and changes in water levels during nesting, Miller explained. There is a push to use lead-free tackle in Maine, he noted.

“Don’t feed any birds bread, it isn’t healthy for them,” Miller stressed.

During the annual loon count taken last year on Wilson Lake seven loons were seen, FOWL member Justy Nazar said.

Throughout the presentation students responded to Miller’s questions, looked to him for answers to theirs.

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