, Volume 567, Issue 1, pp 247–261 | Cite as

Feeding behavior and modeled energetic intake of common loon (Gavia immer) adults and chicks on small lakes with and without fish



We examined the behavior of common loons, Gavia immer (Brünnich), breeding on small, shallow lakes in central Alberta, Canada that were naturally fishless or contained only small-bodied fishes (minnow lake). For both lake types, adults spent >90% of their time on the nesting lake and >50% of their time foraging. Adult loons on fishless lakes dove more frequently, but dives were of shorter duration than loons on lakes with fish. On two intensively studied fishless lakes, adults fed chicks macroinvertebrates, particularly leeches, whereas on a focal minnow lake, fish made up >70% of prey items delivered by adults. Chicks >36 days of age on a minnow lake spent >50% of their time foraging, whereas older chicks on fishless lakes were highly dependent on food provisioning by adults. Models based on observed foraging patterns indicated that prey size was a better predictor of success in meeting energetic requirements than was feeding behavior (e.g., dive rate, dive success). For most models, estimated energetic intake was higher for loons on minnow lakes than on fishless lakes. Our behavioral observations and model results are consistent with surveys in central Alberta that indicate that breeding Common Loons frequently establish territories on small lakes, but that chicks hatched on lakes completely lacking fish rarely fledge and only if sufficient large invertebrates such as leeches are available.


chick behavior common loon diet energetic models foraging Gavia immer 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alvo, R., Berrill, M. 1992Adult Common Loon feeding behavior is related to food fed to chicksWilson Bulletin104184185Google Scholar
  2. Alvo, R., Hussell, D. J. T., Berrill, M. 1988The breeding success of common loons (Gavia immer) in relation to alkalinity and other lake characteristics in OntarioCanadian Journal of Zoology66746752Google Scholar
  3. Baird, P. H. 1990Influence of abiotic factors and prey distribution on diet and reproductive success of three seabird species in AlaskaOrnis Scandinavica21224235Google Scholar
  4. Barr, J. F., 1986. Population dynamics of the Common Loon (Gavia immer) associated with mercury contaminated waters in northwestern Ontario. Canadian Wildlife Service Occasional Paper No. 56Google Scholar
  5. Barr, J. F. 1996Aspects of Common Loons (Gavia immer) feeding biology on its breeding groundHydrobiologia321119144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barrett, R. T., Anker-Nilssen, T., Rikardsen, F., Valde, K., Røv,  N., Vader, W. 1987The food, growth and fledging success of Norwegian Puffin chicks Fratercula arctica in 1980–1983Ornis Scandinavica187383Google Scholar
  7. Bukacinska, M., Bukacinska, B., Spaans, A. 1996Attendance and diet in relation to breeding success in Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus)Auk113300309Google Scholar
  8. Burger, A. E., Piatt, J. F. 1990Flexible time budgets in Common Murres: Buffers against variable prey abundancesStudies in Avian Biology147183Google Scholar
  9. Cairns, D. K. 1987Seabirds as indicators of marine food suppliesBiological Oceanography5261271Google Scholar
  10. Christoff, M. 1979A Study of the Early Chick Rearing Period of the Common Loons (Gavia immer). From: McIntyre, J. 1988. The Common LoonUniversity of Minnesota PressMinneapolisGoogle Scholar
  11. Crawford, R. J. M., Dyer, B. M. 1995Responses of four seabirds to fluctuating availability of Cape anchovy Engraulis capensis of South AmericaIBIS137329339Google Scholar
  12. Cummins, K. W., Wuycheck, J. C. 1971Caloric equivalents for investigations in ecological energeticsCommunications of the International Association of Theoretical and Applied Limnology181158Google Scholar
  13. Driver, E. A. 1981Calorific values of pond invertebrates eaten by ducksFreshwater Biology11579581CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Evers, D. C., 1994. Activity budgets of a marked Common Loon (Gavia immer) nesting population. In Kerekes J. J. (ed.), Aquatic Birds in the Trophic Web of Lakes. Hydrobiologia 279/280: 415–420Google Scholar
  15. Fournier, F., Karasov, W. H., Meyer, M. W., Kenow, K. P. 2002Daily expenditures of free-ranging Common Loon (Gavia immer) chicksThe Auk11911211126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gingras, B. A., 1997. Foraging behavior and breeding performance of Common Loons, Gavia immer, nesting on lakes in central Alberta. M.Sc. thesis, University of Alberta, AlbertaGoogle Scholar
  17. Gingras, B. A., Paszkowski, C. A. 1999Breeding patterns of Common Loons on lakes with three different fish assemblages in north-central AlbertaCanadian Journal of Zoology77600609CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hamer, K. C., Monaghan, P., Uttley, J. D., Walton, P., Burns, M. D. 1993The influence of food supply on the breeding ecology of Kittiwakes Rissa tridactyla in ShetlandIBIS135255263Google Scholar
  19. Hamer, K. C., Lynnes, A. S., Hill, J. K. 1999Parent-offspring interactions in food provisioning of Manx Shearwaters: implications for nestling obesityAnimal Behavior57627631CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kerekes, J. J. 1990Possible correlation of summer common loon (Gavia immer) population with the trophic state of a water bodyProceedings of the International Association of Theoretical and Applied Limnology24349353Google Scholar
  21. Martin, A. R. 1989The diet of Atlantic Puffin Fratercula artica and Northern Gannet Sula bassana chicks at a Shetland colony during a period of changing prey availabilityBird Study36170180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Martin, P., Bateson, P. 1993Measuring Behaviour: An Introductory Guide2Cambridge University PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  23. McIntyre, J. 1988The Common LoonUniversity of Minnesota PressMinneapolisGoogle Scholar
  24. McIntyre, J. W. & J. F. Barr, 1997. Common Loon (Gavia immer). In Poole A. & F. Gill (eds), The Birds of North America. The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA: No. 313, p 32Google Scholar
  25. McNicol, D. K., Mallory, M. L., Vogel, H. S. 1995Using volunteers to monitor the effects of acid precipitation on Common Loon (Gavia immer) reproduction in Canada: the Canadian Lakes Loon SurveyWater Air and Soil Pollution85463468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Meyer, M. W., Evers, D. C., Hartigan, J. J., Rasmussen, P. S. 1998Patterns of Common Loon (Gavia immer) mercury exposure, reproduction, and survival in Wisconsin, USAEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry17184190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mitchell, P. A., Prepas, E. E. 1990Atlas of Alberta LakesUniversity of Alberta PressEdmontonGoogle Scholar
  28. Mittelbach, G. G. 1981Foraging efficiency and body size: a study of optimal diet and habitat use by bluegillsEcology6213701386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Monaghan, P., Walton, P., Wanless, S., Uttley, J. D., Burns, M. D. 1994Effects of prey abundance on the foraging behavior, diving efficiency and time allocation of breeding Guillemots Uria aalge IBIS136214222Google Scholar
  30. Nocera, J. J. & P. D. Taylor, 1998. In situ behavioral response of Common Loons associated with elevated mercury (Hg) exposure. Conservation Ecology [online] 2: 10. Available from the Internet. URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol2/iss2/art10
  31. Nocera, J. J., Burgess, N. M. 2002Diving schedules of Common Loons in varying environmentsCanadian Journal of Zoology8016431648CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Nocera, J. J., Taylor, P. D. 2000Behavior of post-nest failure and non-breeding common loons during the breeding seasonWilson Bulletin112532534Google Scholar
  33. Parker, K. E. 1985Observations of a flying Common Loon carrying a fishJournal of Field Ornithology56412413Google Scholar
  34. Parker, K. E. 1988Common loon reproduction and chick feeding on acidified lakes in the Adirondack Park, New YorkCanadian Journal of Zoology66804810CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Paszkowski, C. A., Tonn, W. M. 2000Community concordance between the fish and aquatic birds of lakes in northern Alberta, Canada: the relative importance of environmental and biotic factorsFreshwater Biology43421437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Phillips, R. A., Caldow, R. W. G., Furness, R. W. 1996The influence of breeding effort and reproductive success of Arctic Skuas Stercorarius parasiticus IBIS138140149Google Scholar
  37. Piper, W. H., Evers, D. C., Meyer, M. W., Tischler, K. B., Kaplan, J. D., Fleischer, R. C. 1997Genetic monogamy in the common loon (Gavia immer)Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology412531CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Reimchen, T. E., Douglas, S. 1984Feeding schedule and daily food consumption in Red-throated Loons (Gavia stellata) over the prefledging periodAuk101593599Google Scholar
  39. Robinson, C. L. K., Tonn, W. M. 1989Influence of environmental factors and piscivory in structuring fish assemblages of small Alberta lakesCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences468189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Scheuhammer, A. M., Graham, J. E. 1999The bioaccumulation of mercury in aquatic organisms from two similar lakes with differing pHEcotoxicology84956CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Scheuhammer, A. M., Perrault, J. A., Bond, D. E. 2001Mercury, methylmercury, and selenium concentrations in eggs of Common Loons (Gavia immer) from CanadaEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment727994PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Storer, R. W. 1987Variation in the Common Loon (Gavia immer)Strong, P. I. V. eds. Papers from the 1987 Conference on Loon Research and ManagementNorth American Loon FundMeredith, NH5465Google Scholar
  43. Uttley, J. D., Walton, P., Monaghan, P., Austin, G. 1994The effects of food abundance on breeding performance and adult time budgets of Guillemots Uria aalge IBIS136205213Google Scholar
  44. Weimerskirch, H., Mougey, T., Hindermeyer, X. 1997Foraging and provisioning strategies of black-browed albatrosses in relation to the requirements of the chick: natural variation and experimental studyBehavioral Ecology8635643Google Scholar
  45. Wrona, F. J., 1982. The influence of biotic and abiotic parameters on the distribution and abundance of two sympatric species of Hirudinoidea. PhD Thesis, University of Calgary, CalgaryGoogle Scholar
  46. Ydenberg, R. C., Forbes, L. S. 1988Diving and foraging in the Western GrebeOrnis Scandinavica19129133Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Canadian Wildlife Service – Prairie and Northern RegionEnvironment CanadaEdmontonCanada

Personalised recommendations