What are Loons and Grebes?
and grebes are waterbirds that breed on freshwater lakes and ponds during the
summer and spend the rest of the year on coastal marine waters. They are
medium-to-large sized birds that dive underwater to feed primarily on fish but
some species also eat invertebrates such as dragonfly larvae. Their legs
are positioned far back on the body making these birds strong swimmers but awkward
on land. They come to land only to nest, often on the shore of the same
lake year after year.
Who are Alaska's Loons and
Unlike anywhere else in North America, all of the
five species of loons; Red-throated,
Arctic, Pacific, Common,
and Yellow-billed loons, nest in
Alaska. Red-necked and Horned
grebes breed over a wide portion of the state. Recent information suggests
that populations of many of these species are showing warning signs in parts of
their range. The Yellow-billed Loon is particularly vulnerable to disturbance
due to it's extremely small population size and limited breeding range.
The Horned Grebe is one of the more precipitously declining species in all of
North America since 1980 and all three of the widely distributed loons in Alaska
(Common, Pacific, and Red-throated loons) have experienced local or regional declines
over the last two decades. The causes of declines among these birds are
poorly understood; however, populations are vulnerable to mortality from a wide
range of threats including oil spills, contaminants, fishing gear, and other human
disturbances. Lead poisoning from ingesting fishing sinkers is a particular
threat to Common Loons.
little is known about the status, trends, and natural history of loons and grebes
breeding in Alaska and even less is know about populations on wintering sites
both within and outside the state. Therefore our office has participated
in several projects to illuminate critical aspects
of the natural history of this poorly understood, but vulnerable group of birds.
Also the Alaska Loon and Grebe Working Group was
formed in 1997 to help conserve Alaskan populations of loons and grebes.
Last Updated: September 15, 2008