Everyone knows that the state bird in Minnesota is the Common Loon. Minnesota actually has more loons than any other state other than Alaska. There's nothing quite like hearing a loon call on a lake in Minnesota. You'll also likely see them when you're on a lake, but did you know you are supposed to give them a lot of space?

It would seem like common sense to many, but believe it or not human interaction with loons is one of the leading causes of deaths for the beautiful birds. Boaters who get too close to the birds could cause stress, but it goes beyond that.

Why are loons so fragile?


Loons migrate back to Minnesota in April. The male loons find an area and attract a female. She'll lay eggs, and they'll take turns protecting the eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the baby loons are completely dependent on their parents. They don't have their feathers yet and need help staying warm. At this time they are in their nest on shorelines of lakes.

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Waves caused by a boat's wake can actually drown the babies. They can also destroy the nests. Because of our short summers, if the first hatchlings of loons don't survive, there's only time for one more chance for the parents to try again.

How much room should you give them?

Wildlife experts say to stay at least 200 feet away from any loons that you may see, including their nesting areas. Avoid creating a wake near the nesting area. The Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute at Northland College has some other helpful tips. One of those is to put up a "loon alert" sign at public boat launches on lakes where you know there are loons.

Ken Hayes
Ken Hayes

They say even one year of disrupting a lake's loon population can have a major impact on an area's loon density.

Other fascinating facts about loons.

  • loons, unlike other birds have solid bones
  • those heavy bones help them dive up to 250 feet deep!
  • loons can stay underwater for 5 minutes at a time
  • loons need a "runway" to take off because they weigh as much as a bowling ball

Loons were actually falling out of the sky this spring in Minnesota and Wisconsin. It was because the weather conditions were so cold that the loons were icing up in the sky and crash-landing in fields and ponds across the region.

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