The loon population continues to grow steadily in Maine.
That is the takeaway from Maine Audubon’s Annual Loon Count, the results of which were released on Monday.
Maine Audubon’s 2022 survey shows that the number of adult loons declined slightly this year, but that dynamic was counteracted by an increase in the number of chicks that were observed.
“Long-term trends continue to show a strong adult population that has grown steadily over the years, and a stable population of chicks over time,” Maine Audubon said.
The estimates for the adult population dropped from 3,446 last year to 3,057 this year, a reduction of almost 13 percent.
Maine Audubon said year-to-year variations are common, with numbers affected by numerous factors, so there is no cause for alarm.
Chick estimates are up from 224 last year to 298 in 2022, an increase of
33 percent. The organization said loons don’t necessarily breed or breed successfully every year.
The organization used information gathered by more then 1,600 volunteers, who visited bodies of water across the southern portion of the state for the annual event held on the third Saturday of July.
Observers had a great day for the Loon Count, which included a calm, clear day and included a record 361 lakes. The sampling includes only lakes and ponds located south of the 45th parallel, below a line roughly from Rangeley to Calais.
The most significant threats to Maine loons include impact from collisions with boats, which is the leading cause of mortality for the birds, along with lead poisoning and effect of nests flooded by boat wakes.
Among the firsts for this year’s Loon Count were the first full count of birds in Sebago Lake, in Cumberland County, and the inclusions of chicks hatched from new nesting platforms established as part of the Loon Restoration Project.
In 2023, Maine Audubon will celebrate the 40th year of the Loon Count.
“The commitment from this group of volunteers shows that conservation is a high priority for Mainers and their communities,” said Loon Count coordinator Hannah Young. “I’ve loved seeing the passion, knowledge, and dedication the counters possess. Maine Audubon, and the loons, are lucky to have such support.”