Black Flies Hinder Reproductive Success
5:43 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

Loon Chicks Likely To Number Forty Percent Fewer

Loons are still feeling the impact from swarms of black flies that drove most pairs from their nests earlier this year.  There’s likely to be a 40 percent drop in the number of chicks compared to last year.

Northwoods loons continue to feel the effects of black fly swarms earlier this year.
Credit Mike Baird via https://flic.kr/p/JAwGP

Thanks to the black flies, more than two thirds of loons in a study abandoned their first attempt at a nest.  Researcher Walter Piper of the Loon Project says even though most have by this time made a second attempt, reproduction is way behind. 

“Last year we had 41 pairs that had produced chicks at this time last year.  And this year, we only have six pairs that have produced young.  So that’s partly the season has been delayed, but partly just that some pairs have not been able to bounce back.” 

With another 45 pairs still sitting on nests at the end of June, there are still more chicks to come.  But as the season progresses, those that hatch later are less likely to survive. 

Even though Piper says it’s disappointing to see such low reproductive success, he’s confident that loons will bounce back. 

“Even as bad a year as its been, it’s not totally record breaking, that is we’ve had some years for various reasons have been as bad or even a little worse than this year.”

He says real concern would come if there were a series of bad years all in a row.  

Piper says there’s nothing people can do to help the loons fend off blackflies, but people can help by not disturbing loons, especially when they have chicks, using caution when fishing near loons, and spreading awareness about the presence of loons on local lakes.