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COASTAL CRITTER:COMMON LOON (Gavia immer)

DESCRIPTION:The Common Loon is a large "goose-sized" bird that may reach 2 1/2 feet in length.  Its summer plumage (feathers) consists of a black head with a white-striped collar around its neck.  The back is black with white spots.  It has a straight, thick and tapered beak.  The common loon's body is specialized for swimming and diving, with its strong legs attached to the rear of the body.  This location adds etra swimming power to its webbed feet.  Due to its legs being located so far to the rear of its body, the loon can barely walk at all and, in fact, appears to be injured when it attempts walking on land.  It also can only take off from the water in

order to fly.  When swimming, the loon rides low in the water.

HABITAT/ECOLOGY:Common Loons winter along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico loons and can frequently be seen swimming in Pensacola Bay and Santa Rosa Sound. Loons nest in Alaska and Canada in the spring and summer.  The nests are built along the water's edge in dense patches of grass.  The loon feeds on

fish, crustaceans, frogs and aquatic insects

by quickly diving from the surface and is

able to swim long distances underwater.  The

loon will occasionally poke its head above

the water's surface for air.

CONSERVATION:Often a victim of marine debris, the Common Loon can become entangled in fishing line.  A museum exhibit in the Fort Pickens Area of Gulf Islands National Seashore includes a Common Loon whose death was caused by entanglement in fishing line.

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