Loon Translocation

© WBUR-Jesse Costa
Published: 29 October 2021
Last edited: 29 October 2021
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In 2013, BRI began one of the largest loon studies ever conducted. The initial 5-year scientific initiative, Restore the Call, aimed to strengthen and restore Common Loon populations within their existing and former range. Through this research effort, BRI has developed detailed translocation protocols and practices. This method of loon restoration can be replicated in ongoing and future projects.


North America
Scale of implementation
Freshwater ecosystems
Pool, lake, pond
Access and benefit sharing
Coastal and marine spatial management
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Genetic diversity
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Outreach & communications
Science and research
Species management
Watershed management
Species Conservation and One Health Interventions
Species Monitoring and Research
Species Conservation Translocations
Species Conservation Planning
Increasing temperatures
Invasive species


Massachusetts, United States | Minnesota, Wyoming
Maine, United States
New York, United States


This scientific initiative laid a strong foundation to help researchers identify major threats to loons and to create solutions that strengthen populations and to restore loons to their former breeding range.


Loon Conservation -- the Common Loon is an important bioindicator of the health of an ecosystem including fish and wildlife. People often share lakes with loons. This work will advance our understanding of loon ecology.

How do the building blocks interact?

Translocation involves multiple teams conducting source population surveys, capture and transport, and the difficult task of safely rearing the chicks, with numerous steps and processes in between. The major steps to develop a viable translocation and restoration process: 1) identify the restoration site and source populations; 2) safe capture and transport of loon chicks; 3) develop plans and equipment for captive rearing; 4) release chicks once they are ready to feed on their own; 5) monitor chicks until they fledge; 6) monitor for returning adult loons; and 7) plan for restoration.


Translocation: Expanding the Range of Common Loons in Massachusetts 
In 1974, New Hampshire marked the southern edge of the range for Common Loons, and at the time that range was retracting. Recovery efforts carried out by loon conservation groups in New Hampshire and Vermont helped restore loon populations in those states. 
In Massachusetts, extirpation has made recovery in that state much slower. Currently, loon recovery in Massachusetts is still dependent on breeding success in northern New England and New York. BRI’s translocation research being carried out in Massachusetts provides an example of how a population at the edge of its range can be restored.


© WBUR-Jesse Costa

Story in Audubon Magaine: https://www.audubon.org/magazine/winter-2020/an-innovative-effort-return-loons-massachusetts


Welcome Home Loons

New recovery techniques have helped the iconic waterbirds nest in Massachusetts' glacial lakes for the first time in more than a century.


Loons were once an iconic presence in the state’s glacial lakes. In Walden, Thoreau recounts playing hide-and-seek with the bird—its “demonic laughter” gives away its position. But a few decades later, due to deforestation, pollution, and human persecution, loons were gone from the state.


BRI's research efforts returned breeding loons to Massachusetts. In spring 2019 a male loon translocated from New York (in 2015) met a female, and in June of 2020, the pair hatched a bonafide hometown chick—the first known in the southern part of the state in more than a century.

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Deborah McKew Biodiversity Research Institute