Loon population gets a helping hand in southern Minnesota

Published 10:22 am Monday, September 14, 2015

MANKATO — It may sound loony, but southern Minnesota needs a hand in providing a home for the state’s official bird.

Minnesota’s loon population is stable at an estimated 4,800 breeding pairs, but their numbers are weaker in southern reaches. And a study from the National Audobon Society last year suggested loons could be pushed out of Minnesota altogether by 2080 as the state’s lakes warm.

Enter Biodiversity Research Institute, a Maine-based group leading a three-year effort to restore the black- and white-speckled bird in the southern part of the state. Nine more loon chicks will be released at Le Sueur County’s Fish Lake — about 20 miles east of Mankato — by the end of fall.

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Loon chicks are taken from the northern lakes where they hatched after just eight weeks — old enough to be raised by their parents, but young enough so they don’t form an attachment to their birth lake.