While watching Redheads and Ring-necked Ducks the other day on the St. Paul reservoir at Lake Vadnais, I spotted this lone bird, repeatedly diving while unfortunately swimming away from me. It didn’t look like a duck, or a grebe, so perhaps it was a loon — but like no loon I’ve seen before.
Young Common Loons are on their own about 12 weeks after hatching, while their parents prepare for migration south to coastal waters of North America. Juvenile birds remain on the lakes where they were raised, sometimes gathering in small groups, and migrate much later in the Fall than their parents — their route pre-programmed as an instinctive behavior.
Unlike their parents, though, these young birds remain in coastal environments for another couple of years, only returning north as mature adults in their third year. However, even then, they may not breed until they are six years old, which implies that these birds are relatively long-lived in the wild. In fact, the longest-lived Common Loon was determined to be 24 years old, returning each year to the same lake in Michigan to breed.