Sep 13, 2023

The Development of a Common Loon

The previous feature article was the third in a series of photo visits I made to document the young Common Loon as a downy hatchling during week 3 of its life (July 20), as it was getting its initial feathers during week 6 (August 13), and after it attained its full juvenile plumage by week 10 (September 7). This young loon is a very special bird, and it was a thrill to spend time with it and the adult loons during each of the 3 photo sessions. This is an excellent example of a long range photo project that turned out to be a success, partly because of the success of the loons in raising the young one, and partly as a result of the efforts made in planning and weather monitoring.

It also took a lot of help from my friend Andy, who provided excellent on the water services – mucho gracias Andy! And we both appreciated having our friend Linda along during the first 2 voyages and amigo Dwight on the second photo session as Andy captained his luxury pontoon boat. Each of these trips was such an enjoyable and rewarding time in the great outdoors of the Minnesota northwoods, and the birds we enjoyed along the way fueled our shared times afloat. We’re not finished yet, but the young loon probably won’t change much in looks during the coming weeks so it’s a good time to share a representative photo from each trip to show the loon’s dramatic growth and development.

Article and photographs by Paul Konrad

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July 20:  The downy nearly 3-week-old hatchling Common Loon provided ample incentive to try to document its growth and development through the summer (photo tech: 450mm zoom lens, f-8 aperture, 1/800 shutter speed, ISO 400). 
August 13:  Much larger in size and looking more like an adult in structure, during week 6 the young loon was attaining its first feathers while still retaining some down – showing an interesting mid-development stage (250mm zoom lens, f-10 aperture, 1/640 shutter speed, ISO 400). 
September 7 (week 10):  Fully feathered and probably starting to practice water take-offs and short flights, this fledgling Common Loon will soon be on its own (420mm zoom lens, f-8 aperture, 1/800 shutter speed, ISO 400)