Minnesota – Common Loons Interacting

During my recent Minnesota trip, I was able to photograph an adult Common Loon (Gavia immer) helping a young loon fish for food. This activity occurred at the Sherburne NWR, the same place my recent “Minnesota Wildflower” posts’ images came from. In fact, immediately after photographing the prairie wildflowers, we came upon a pool of water that was pretty active with Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus), Canada Geese (Branta canadensis), and one adult/one juvenile Common Loons. As I set up my tripod and camera, I noticed there were frequent interactions between the two loons. After watching for a moment, I realized that the adult loon was helping the youngster out by catching small fish, swimming over to the juvenile, and transferring the fish to the juvenile’s beak.

Here are a few images I collected during these interactions. This first image is the juvenile. Not yet mastering the art of fishing, it would submerge it’s head, while keeping it’s body on the surface of the water:

Common Loon young fishing


About 30 feet away, the adult (which had fully submerged, looking for fish) would surface with a small fish in it’s beak:

Common Loon with fish in beak


The adult would then swim over to the juvenile, and give the fish to the youngster, who would “put it down the hatch”. Here is a sequence of several shots I made during this activity. In this first image, the fish is still in the adult’s beak, but the juvenile is ready to accept it:

Common Loon adult feeds young loon


Since I was a ways from the action, I have cropped the previous image to a tighter image, so you can see the detail better:

Common Loon adult feeds young loon (Enlarged)

In this next image, the juvenile has possession (sort of!) of the fish. You can see it flopping around as the youngster attempts to get a better hold of the fish:

Common Loon adult feeds young loon


In this next frame, you can clearly see the fish lying in the youngster’s beak:

Common Loon adult feeds young loon


The youngster then downed the catch and the two continued fishing. We watched/photographed them for about 30 minutes, until they were on the opposite side of the pool and too far away to get any good detail. What a day! The subsequent day was just as exhilarating … a family of Trumpeter Swans! I’ll post on them tomorrow.

If you’ve missed any of my posts from the Minnesota trip, here are links to all of them:

Minnesota – Split Rock Lighthouse

Minnesota – Illgen Falls

Minnesota – Glen Avon Falls

Minnesota – Foxy Lady

Minnesota – Wildflowers, Part 1

Minnesota – Wildflowers, Part 2

Minnesota – Meet Scooter

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