Bird Tails

A Looney Visitor

Being called “looney” is not a good thing,
that is unless you are a Loon. 

By Vic Prislipsky

Loons are a family of birds described as large diving waterbirds.  Although “duck-like” in appearance and behavior, they are more closely related to penguins than they are to ducks.  Their dagger-like bills and solid bones are major differences compared to ducks. 

Loons are good flyers despite needing a long takeoff to get airborne.   However, it is diving and swimming at which they excel.  Their rearward set legs, webbed feet, smallish wings and solid bones allow them to chase fish to depths of 200 feet.

There are five species of loons in N. America. 

The Common Loon is widespread throughout the U.S. and Canada and the only that has been seen in the Village.  However, there have been a number of sightings of Pacific and Red-throated Loons in Arkansas.  Common Loons nest in the northern U.S. and Canada and migrate south for the winter.  Breeding Common Loons have a beautiful black and white checkered color pattern.  Unfortunately for us, the winter birds are a drab gray and white.

Seeing a Loon in the Village is a treat. 

Hearing one is memorable.  (The derogatory term “looney” comes from the word “luna” which led to “lunatic”.   No doubt “crazy as a loon” derives from the eerie, “crazy-like” yodeling call that the Common Loons make.)   

Seeing a Loon in the Village can be hit and miss.  Lake Balboa is the best bet but there is no reason that they should not be found on Cortez, Coronado or DeSoto.  We don’t have reports of them from the smaller lakes.  Loons are not social birds and don’t tolerate competition.  Expect them to arrive in the Village in late October.  Most are gone by April but there may be an occasional straggler in May.

As always the HSVBIRDS.ORG website has a lot of information about everything you’d like to know about birds and some of Nature’s other wonders.  Beginning in March HSV Audubon meets the 2nd Thursday of each month, except in the summer, at 10:00 at the Coronado Center.  (The February meeting will be the 2nd Friday)  Guests are always welcome.

Photos and story by Vic Prislipsky