The influence of biotic and abiotic factors on banded common loon (Gavia immer) reproductive success in a remote, mountainous region of the northeastern United States

  • Valerie L. BuxtonEmail author
  • David C. Evers
  • Nina Schoch


Habitat degradation resulting from anthropogenic activities can threaten wildlife populations. Even wildlife existing in seemingly pristine areas are at risk of airborne pollutants and urban development. The common loon (Gavia immer), a top-trophic level predator in freshwater aquatic ecosystems, has previously experienced detrimental changes in reproductive success as a result of anthropogenic activities. However, long-term studies and large sample sizes are necessary to ascertain the impacts of various anthropogenic activities on this long-lived species. Using a multi-year dataset, we investigated the effects of multiple biotic and abiotic factors on the probability of adult male and female common loon hatching and fledging success. From 1998–2017, we banded individual loons, collected blood samples to assess mercury (Hg) exposure of the birds, and monitored their reproductive success. Adult female loon hatching success was negatively associated with the amount of rainfall received in a given year while fledging success was positively associated with the amount of shoreline development. Adult male loon hatching success was positively associated with the amount of shoreline development and fledging success was negatively associated with the number of other loon pairs on a lake.


Common loon Reproductive success Mercury Development Adirondack Park Rainfall 



We thank the many dedicated field technicians who have collected data for this study over the past 20 years. A special thanks to Gary Lee, who has been banding loons with us since 1998. Additionally, we are grateful to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Zoological Health Program, and Calvin College for providing in-kind support, staff, and field equipment for loon capture and sampling. We also thank the Adirondack Watershed Institute of Paul Smiths College and the Adirondack Ecological Center of SUNY ESY for aiding in data collection. This work was generously funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the Wildlife Conservation Society, The Wild Center, Freed Foundation, the Raquette River Advisory Council, and numerous other private foundations and individual donors.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


All applicable national and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Adirondack Center for Loon ConservationRay BrookUSA
  2. 2.Biodiversity Research InstitutePortlandUSA

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