Michigan Loonwatch
A Management, Protection and Registry Program of the Michigan Loon Preservation Association

Loons have many things that can harm or danger them. Some of these things are Lead, Watercraft, Botulism, Mercury, Aspergillosis, Getting too close to take pictures, and Dams. Click on any of the links in the menu to find out how these affect loons and how you can help save them.

Loss of nesting habitat due to lakeshore development for homes, recreation, or campsites.

An increased number of humans on lakes.

Noise and disturbance from boats and personal watercraft. Chasing loons, swamping nests with excess wake, washing eggs out of the nest, or running over chicks or adults.

Getting too close to the nest or Loon family with a boat or canoe.

Water quality changes that occur from septic systems, acid rain, and mercury contamination.

Water level fluctuation with resultant flooding of nests, or stranding the nesting adults too far from rapid escape to the water.

Entrapment and drowning in fishing nets on the Great Lakes and oceans.

Accidentally landing on wet roads and parking lots, which appear as open water. The heavy bird is easily injured by its own weight, and may become infected and die.

Becoming ice bound by early winter ice. Birds can quickly become hypothermic and perish.

Lead sinkers and fishing line causing injury, entanglement, illness, and/or death.

Increase in predators such as eagles, mink, otters, ravens, raccoons, and gulls; the latter two often caused by an increase in population and garbage.

Competition from exotic and aggressive Mute Swans.

Botulism infections may occur in periodic epidemics with hundreds of loons dying on the Great Lakes.

Decrease in fish supply or other food due to over fishing or contamination of water. A visual predator, the loon needs clear, clean water to catch its prey.

Lead

A bird that eats lead will become ill and die. Ingested lead enters the gizzard, where a combination of stomach acids and abrasion breaks down the metal. It then is absorbed into bloodstream.

A bird with lead poisoning will exhibit physical and behavioral changes including loss of balance, gasping, tremors, and an impaired ability to fly. The weakened bird is more vulnerable to predators, or it may have trouble feeding, mating, nesting, and caring for its young. It becomes emaciated and often dies within two or three weeks after eating the lead.

Just one lead sinker or jig can poison a water bird. On freshwater lakes of the eastern United States and Canada, lead poisoning is the most significant contributor to death in adult Common loons, causing at least 50 percent of known deaths.

Watercraft​

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Botulism​

Botulism is a paralytic condition that results from consuming a neurotoxin produced by the spore forming bacterium Clostridium botulinum. The bacterium resides in the bottom sediments and in the alimentary (digestive) tracts of fish in the Great Lakes. The toxin is
produced as the bacterium grows and there are 7 recognized types of botulism neurotoxins in the world, A-G. In Michigan, Type C and Type E botulism have been diagnosed in wild waterfowl.​

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