What Is a Loon Fallout?

Recently the Raptor Education Group in Antigo, Wisconsin, reported a loon fallout in northern Wisconsin. A fallout happens when loon essentially crash-land into lakes or onto land because ice forms on their body and makes them unable to fly. The event in late April happened because of unseasonably cold weather along with freezing rain and sleet. Loons were spotted on the ground in Wausau, Gleason, Stratford, Neva, Rice Lake, Antigo and Drummond.

A news item on KARE 11 TV in the Twin Cities quoted Lori Arent, assistant director at the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota: “The ice gets so heavy that the birds cannot stay airborne and they fall to the ground, sometimes hard, in unusual places. Loons need water to take off, so when their wings get iced, they often land in fields and other locations not near water.” The Raptor Education Group fielded numerous calls reporting on loons that had fallen. The center’s volunteers worked with some of those loons in an effort to restore them to flight status. Center staff shared information for people who discover a loon on the ground.

Loons can’t walk; they use their legs only for diving and swimming. Anyone looking to handle loons should know they have a sharp beak and will defend themselves with it. It is possible to cover a loon with a blanket and take it carefully to a wildlife rehabilitation center. The bird should be carried in a container with a secure cover, with airholes. Recovered loons should not be placed in a small pond or lake, because they need at least a quarter-mile open water to take flight. If you find a loon that seems to be struggling, especially if on land), call the Raptor Education Group at 715-623-4015 or Loon Rescue at 715-966-5415.

Photo: Rehab volunteers nurse a loon that crash-landed amid icing conditions in the air. Credit: Raptor Education Group.