Loon Fight For Territory

Today was another beautiful day to get out to check on the loons. I headed to the pond where the chicks had yet to hatch when I visited Friday. This is the westernmost pond that I’ve been watching, so these birds are the ‘Westons.’

There was a single loon floating by itself near the boat launch, and a long way from the nest. This is the pond that has had intruders challenging the home team for the territory this spring.

A ways down the pond, I found the home team lazily foraging with two chicks.

Out newest loons, one chick riding, the other is tucked under the far wing.
One of the parents attempting to deliver a 10 ounce fish to the three ounce chicks. The fish was uncooperative and the loon dropped it. The loon reached underwater for it, not sure if it caught it or if it was the fish’s lucky day.

Our family drifted out towards the middle of the pond when things got exciting.

The intruding loon surfaced right next to the parent babysitting the chicks and went for them. Loons intent on taking over a territory will try to kill any chicks. Without chicks, the holders of the territory have less to fight for. The loon doing the penguin dance is the home team male, with the intruder in front of him. After the skirmish, the home team loon returned to the family, then turned and yodeled at the intruder hiding at the far end of the pond. Only male loons yodel, so this was most likely a fight between our male and another male who wishes to take over his territory.
The male from the home team rearing up to try to scare the intruder.
The chase is on! The intruder retreats, with our male in hot pursuit. Loons in a heated territory dispute will ‘wing row’ (‘wing oar’ to our friends across the pond) across the water. If the pursuing loon can catch up, they will fight by hitting each other with their wings or their beaks. Fights go until one retreats or gets killed.
“When you strike at a king, you must kill him” – or face the consequences. The intruder tries to get away.
The fight continued up and down the pond.
Coming back for another lap….
Our male gains ground….
Loons wing rowing turn by dipping one wing into the water, the pursuing loon usually matches the move. With the spray, it can be hard to tell what’s going on.
And stay out! After chasing the intruder into the brush at the far end of the pond, our male returned to his mate and chicks. He spent several minutes yodeling in the direction of the intruder and pretty much any critter that moved around the pond. The intruder has retreated, but not left the pond. The fight may not be over.

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13 Comments

  1. Reply
    Linda Charron June 26, 2022

    I’m rooting for the Home Team!

  2. Reply
    Jim Flanagan June 27, 2022

    Ian,

    This is fantastic.

    Thank you!

    Jim Flanagan

  3. Reply
    Donna Kirk June 27, 2022

    Spectacular photos! Rooting for the home team!

  4. Reply
    Lizzie Alton June 29, 2022

    Ian, what a wonderful narrative…I am also rooting for the Home Team! Hope they stay vigilant! I learn something new every time I read your blog. Lovely pictures too.

    • Ian Clark headshot
      Reply
      Ian Clark June 29, 2022

      Thanks! They had another busy day today, there were five adults on the pond.

  5. Reply
    Cindy July 1, 2022

    Wow.. thank you so much for the pictures and narrative with them. Amazing.. cindy

  6. Reply
    Dale Bromley July 1, 2022

    Wow Ian, you just get more better.

  7. Reply
    Fran Cochran July 1, 2022

    What body of water were you on? Lake Sunapee?

    • Ian Clark headshot
      Reply
      Ian Clark July 1, 2022

      Hi – Sorry, I’ve learned the hard way not to share the location of loon chicks. Not everyone one the internet has their best interests at heart.

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