Where do Loons Go in the Winter?

Article ID: 502748

Released: 12-Jan-2004 3:50 PM EST

Source Newsroom: Wildlife Conservation Society

Newswise — The Adirondack Cooperative Loon Program (ACLP), a research and education partnership of the Wildlife Conservation Society and four other organizations, have announced a new study to learn where Adirondack loons go in the winter. Using satellite telemetry techniques, this loon migration project will greatly expand conservationists' understanding of common loon natural history by identifying migration routes, staging areas, and wintering grounds important to the birds that summer in New York's six million acre Adirondack Park.

"ACLP's loon migration research will fill in missing gaps about the life history of Adirondack loons," said WCS-NHMA scientist Dr. Nina Schoch, Program Coordinator for ACLP. "By understanding where loons migrate once they leave the Adirondacks, conservationists will be able to better protect these magnificent birds at both their breeding and wintering areas."

In August, 2003, ACLP and U.S. Geological Survey scientists equipped two Adirondack loons with satellite transmitters to record the birds' southerly migrations, which, until now, had been largely unknown. To date, the birds have been tracked as far south as New Jersey. This project will be expanded in future years to outfit additional birds with transmitters. Information obtained from these birds about their seasonal migratory patterns and habitat selection will be valuable for the development of statewide, regional, and national loon conservation strategies.

"DEC is committed to working with our partners in the ongoing protection and education about native and migratory species that contribute to the great diversity of wildlife in New York State," New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Erin Crotty said. "This study will help identify important aspects of the loon's life cycle and will be useful in assessing problems this species encounters in New York State and throughout the Northeast to help further protect the Common loon population."

High on the food chain, these long-lived birds are excellent indicators of the health of our environment. Current research by the Adirondack Cooperative Loon Program is leading to improved knowledge about population trends and factors, such as mercury pollution, that impact the Adirondack loon population. This study will complement research conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey in the Midwest and in NH to better determine migration routes, staging areas, and wintering grounds important to North American loon populations.

The Adirondack Cooperative Loon Program's education efforts will be expanded to include an interactive portion of its website, http://www.adkscience.org/loons, enabling Adirondack residents, visitors, and the general public to learn firsthand about the year-round habitat requirements and conservation issues affecting the Adirondack loon population. Students throughout North America will have the opportunity to participate in ACLP's research via the website and through classroom curricula that will be available beginning in the fall of 2004.

"It's exciting to enable students, both young and old, to participate in true scientific inquiry. How often does the public have the opportunity to witness science unraveling its mysteries?" adds Valerie Trudeau, Education Development Director for the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks. "ACLP's loon migration project is an excellent example of the Museum's commitment to communicating state-of-the-art scientific knowledge to the public."

The ACLP is a partnership of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, BioDiversity Research Institute of Falmouth, Maine, and the Audubon Society of New York. This loon migration research project is a joint effort between ACLP, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

This project is funded by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, including federal funding from the USFWS' State Wildlife Grants Program, a grant from the New York State Biodiversity Research Institute to the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks, USGS, and the USFWS. For more information about this research, please visit the ACLP website at http://www.adkscience.org/loons.


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