Loons in Wisconsin

Scientific Name: Gavia immer

Size: 2 to 3 ft (66 to 91 cm)

Weight: 6.5 to 12 lbs (3 to 5 kg)

Average life span in the wild: 30 years

Diet: Carnivore


Habitat: Forested lakes and large ponds in northern Wisconsin and the Upper Great Lakes region, such as Michigan and Minnesota. They winter all along North America's Atlantic (and sometimes Pacific coasts).


Did you know?: Loons can dive more than 200 ft (61 m) below the surface of the water in search of food.


Read stories and personal accounts from northern Wisconsin residents and visitors who have been lucky enough to witness these graceful beauties.




Loon Facts or Fiction? An Update from Dr.Piper

Northern Wisconsin Loon Flying Low Over Water

Dr. Walter H. Piper knows loons. I mean… he really knows loons. Since 1993, he and several colleagues have led The Loon Project, an in-depth study of loon territorial behavior in Oneida County, Wisconsin. During the late spring and summer months, you can find Dr. Piper on many of our lakes, banding, studying and analyzing data to better understand our “Great Northern Divers”. We recently had the chance to catch up with Dr. Piper, who is also a professor of biology at Chapman … [Read more...]

Do Loons Mate for Life?

Loon Family

Part 2 of an interview series with Dr. Piper, founder of The Loon Project, a 20 year study of loon behavior in Oneida County, Wisconsin. NorthernWisconsin.com: When we first talked, you mentioned that scientists have learned a good deal about loons in the past 20 years. What is one of the biggest discoveries? Dr. Piper:  It took only a year or two to dispel the biggest myth about loons: that they mate for life. Right away we could see that territory owners – both male and female -- … [Read more...]

Male Loons Fight to the Death

Male Loons Fight Over Territory

Part 3 of an interview series with Dr. Piper, founder of The Loon Project, a 20 year study of loon behavior in Oneida County, Wisconsin. NorthernWisconsin.com:  What are some of the other big discoveries you have found through your research in Oneida County, Wisconsin? Dr. Piper: In the course of our work on territory takeover, we came upon another interesting behavioral pattern: fatal battles among males. Although it took many years of data collection to confirm the pattern … [Read more...]

Loon Banding & How We Track Them

Loon Tracking Bands

Part 4 of an interview series with Dr. Piper, founder of The Loon Project, a 20 year study of loon behavior in Oneida County, Wisconsin. NorthernWisconsin.com:  Can you explain the loon banding process? When do you do it and how do you possibly keep track of every loon? Dr. Piper: We can only capture loons efficiently in the late summer, when they have chicks. A pair that has chicks will not dive as much as a chickless pair. Instead, they will remain with the chicks and protect them, … [Read more...]

Favorite Memories From a Life’s Work

Dr. Walter Piper Studying Northern Wisconsin Loons

Part 5 of an interview series with Dr. Piper, founder of The Loon Project, a 20 year study of loon behavior in Oneida County, Wisconsin. NorthernWisconsin.com:  Do you have a favorite memory or story from your Northern Wisconsin loon experiences so far? Dr. Piper:  After two decades of working in northern Wisconsin, I have lots of good memories. Many of these come from friendships I have made with folks who live on our study lakes. However, one of my warmest memories was of saving a … [Read more...]

The Little Looney Tales: Hatched – A Book Review

The Little Loony Tales - Hatched - Final Cover

This book review was submitted by Anna Ward (age 14), a summer resident of Eagle River and a self-proclaimed loon enthusiast from as far back as she can remember. “The Little Looney Tales - Hatched” is written by two authors, Lizzie and Jack. Lizzie resides “Up North” on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Jack lives on the Monterey Coast in California. This is the first book the two authors wrote together and they both share a love and passion for loons.  The beautiful illustrations … [Read more...]

Dr. Loonacy and the Flying Submarines…

Denny Olson

Denny Olson is a neat guy from Duluth, Minnesota, who goes around educating about wildlife and nature -- often dressed as the character or animal he is talking about. He has more more than 27 years of experience teaching nature-based lectures and classes in the North Woods and Mountain West. He has done a lot of research on animals such as beavers, hares and loons. Denny Olson usually wears outrageous costumes and tells stories as his characters, or humorous "alter-egos," such as Critterman, … [Read more...]

Loon Watch

Northern Wisconsin Loon on Water

A special note about loons from the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute, Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin: Imagine a northern lake without the haunting, mournful call and stately presence of the common loon. Although still abundant and widespread in most of Alaska and Canada, the common loon's numbers and range have decreased in the lower 48 states of the U.S. The estimated 15,000 loons in the Upper Great Lakes States of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan comprise nearly … [Read more...]

The Anatomy and Physiology of Loons

Northern Wisconsin World Famous Loons

What do loons look like? Loons are powerful, streamlined birds with red eyes, greenish-black head, long tapered beak and black and white checkerboard plumage. How large are loons? The Common Loon weighs between 8 - 11 pounds, is about 25 inches tall, and has a wingspread of 5 to 5 1/2 feet. How many species of loons are there? There are four species of loons that exist in the northern hemisphere. The Common Loon, the Arctic Loon, the Yellow-Billed Loon, and the … [Read more...]

The Life Cycle of the Common Loon

Baby Loon and Mommy Loon

Some frequently asked questions - and answers - about the Common Loon and their life cycle: Do loons mate for life? Loons are believed to mate for life, but more research is needed in this area. Do loons have a courtship ritual? Yes. Courtship consists mainly of head dipping and shallow dives. In spring, loons are frequently observed chasing each other across the surface of a lake. This is primarily territorial behavior, not courtship ritual. What does a loon nest look like? The … [Read more...]