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Common Loon, North and South Photography
Photo © North and South Photography

Photo: North and South Photography
Breeding evidence - Common Loon
Breeding evidence
Probability of observation - Common Loon
Probability of observation
Elevation plot - Common Loon
Elevation plot

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Common Loon
Gavia immer
Landscape associations:

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Elevation range:
0 - 1629 m
Conserv. status:
Not at risk
Global importance
of B.C. population:
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
212 280 525 301
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
Brit. Col.1970 - 2012 0.417 (-1.49 - 2.03)Medium
Canada1970 - 2012 1.17 (0.248 - 1.93)High

Mean abundance by region

Bird Conservation Regions [plot]
NW Interior ForestBoreal Taiga PlainsGreat BasinNorthern RockiesN. Pacific Rainforest
0.130.05 0.130.1 0.15
Ecoprovinces [plot]
N. Boreal Mountains Taiga Plains Boreal Plains Georgia Depression Sub-Boreal Interior
0.130.05 0.050.1 0.09
S. Interior Mountains Central Interior Southern Interior S. Alaska Mountains Coast & Mountains
0.060.12 0.12  0.16

Mean abundance by habitat [plot]

Boreal Altai Fescue AlpineBoreal White and Black SpruceBunchgrassCoastal Douglas-fir 
Coastal Mountain-heather AlpineCoastal Western HemlockEngelmann Spruce -- Subalpine FirInterior Cedar -- Hemlock
Interior Douglas-firInterior Mountain-heather AlpineMontane SpruceMountain Hemlock
0.14 0.10.67
Ponderosa PineSpruce -- Willow -- BirchSub-Boreal Pine -- SpruceSub-Boreal Spruce

Characteristics and Range The Common Loon is a fitting symbol for Canada, the nation which sustains roughly 95% of its breeding population (Tozer et al. 2013a). Its echoing yodel is a soundtrack of the fresh, clean water bodies from coast to coast to coast where it spends the breeding season. It is equally widespread throughout British Columbia during summer, when its territorial duets serenade campers at lonely lakes. After the breeding season, it vacates interior lakes to overwinter along the Pacific Coast. The Common Loon's breeding range encompasses forested lakes across Canada and the northern tier of the United States, and extends eastward to Greenland and Iceland; eastern birds overwinter along the northwest and northeast Atlantic coasts (Evers et al. 2010).

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat The Common Loon breeds throughout British Columbia; the greatest concentration of records is across the lake-filled plateaus between the Coast Mountains and the Rocky Mountains, where it is found most commonly between 750 and 1,250 m elevation.

As vocal as the Common Loon is, its localised wetland habitat is not best surveyed by randomised point counts. Atlas point counts found highest abundance in parts of the Central Interior and Southern Interior, and locally in the Coast and Mountains and Northern Boreal Mountains ecoprovinces. The Probability of Observation model seems to reaffirm this, highlighting the high-density wetlands on the Cariboo, Chilcotin, Interior, and also the Stikine-Yukon plateaus as some of the most likely places to find the species. This pattern is similar to Campbell et al. (1990), who noted "the Thompson-Okanagan and Fraser plateaus, and the Fraser Basin region appear to be the centre of abundance," covering parts of Southern Interior, Central Interior and Sub-Boreal Interior ecoprovinces, respectively.

Conservation and Recommendations The Canadian Breeding Bird Survey shows an increasing long-term trend, but a stable trend in British Columbia (Environment Canada 2014). However, reproductive success is declining, and whilst it is currently higher in southwestern Canada, it is declining more steeply in the southwest than in the southeast, according to Bird Studies Canada's Canadian Lakes Loon Survey (Tozer et al. 2013b), a concern worthy of further investigation. Adult loons are long-lived, so a lag time is expected before lower reproductive success manifests as a decline in the breeding population (Tozer et al. 2013b). The list of potential threats is long, including habitat alteration and loss, disturbance, fishing practises, and pollution. Both individual loons and the overall population appear resilient to many of these threats (Evers et al. 2010). Many studies suggest mercury and acid precipitation are among the most important factors limiting reproductive success of Common Loons in southern Canada (Tozer et al. 2013b).

Christopher Di Corrado

Recommended citation: Di Corrado, C. 2015. Common Loon in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. [26 Sep 2023]

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