Monday, March 16, 2009

Want to See Loons? Go to California.

Although the Common Loon is the state bird of Minnesota, here in southern Minnesota we generally see loons only in migration; a pair was spotted on a Northfield pond last spring. However, several species of loons winter along the Pacific coast, among other places. On our recent birdwatching trip in northern California, we saw loons (Common, Pacific, or Red-Throated) most days, in protected salt-water harbors and at Clear Lake.

The bird below is probably a Common Loon transitioning to its black-and-white breeding plumage. Its sturdy bill helps distinguish it from the very similar Pacific Loon. We spotted it in the harbor at Woodley Island, just north of Eureka, along with a number of grebes and a large group of Marbled Godwits. One of the tell-tale signs of a loon is its low position in the water.

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