Not Minnesota nice

I’ve spent the last few days watching life along the lakeshore in Alexandria, Minnesota.  If you sit quietly on the end of the dock, a procession of life wanders by:  white pelicans, cormorants, bald eagles, loons, various ducks, etc.  But one sighting was a bit unusual.

A solitary Common Loon frequents this particular bay of Lake Le Homme Dieu and regularly serenades with his ethereal, plaintive calls morning and evening.  He/she floated by preening and stretching on this early morning.

loon

The foot stretching took quite a while, as did the preening of all the feathers on its back.

The foot stretching took quite a while, as did the preening of all the feathers on its back.

Next, a family of newly hatched Wood Ducklings floated by.

13 little ones followed their mother in tight formation.  Keeping close together turns out to be very important.

13 little ones followed their mother in tight formation. Keeping close together turns out to be very important.

Oh look, the loon is back.  Mother duck markedly increased her swimming speed and the little ones followed.

Oh look, the loon is back. Mother duck markedly increased her swimming speed and the little ones followed.

Suddenly, mother duck flew a short distance toward the shore, but then flew back directly at the loon, veering off right before hitting it.  I was watching her, so I didn’t see what the loom was doing.  The ducklings scattered to the shore like bullets.

But, the loon suddenly started thrashing and flapping in the water like it had caught something.

loon attack

loon attack

What have you got in your feet there, Mr/Ms Loon?

What have you got in your feet there, Mr/Ms Loon?

I wondered if it had caught one of the ducklings, so I googled “do loons eat baby ducks”. Guess what, they do, and there are several reports of this behavior, the most interesting of which was a loon acting like an alligator swimming low in the water and attacking from below.  Click here to read about “loon alligators”.  Apparently, loons will attack adult ducks and even Canada Geese, and regularly use underwater stealth in their attack.

And I thought they ate fish.  Not such a nice state bird afterall.

7 thoughts on “Not Minnesota nice

  1. Especially like the shot of the tight formation of ducklings, Sue. I would never have guessed that loons would go after ducklings. The world is a pretty hostile environment, I guess, when you are as small and vulnerable as those little babies.

  2. When we left on Sunday, July 7, 2013, there were still 13 ducklings. They have more than doubled in size making it difficult to identify the mother at first glance.

  3. Sitting here on big Sebago in Maine I just saw a Loon go after 2 different families of ducks. Watching the mother scramble as the Loon drew closer and her little ducklings trying to stay up with her as she few toward land. The Loon went off to bother family #2 and I never saw the end results. Not knowing if the Loons ate duckling, I had to google this. I knew turtles were a danger to ducklings because I have seen one snatch a duckling and pull it under and never saw it come back up!😞

    • Thanks for writing up this observation! You don’t see much mention of loon predation on ducklings, but those dangling duckling legs must be very tempting to loons swimming around beneath them.

Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s