For more information on these and
other projects involving loons and grebes, please contact Tamara ZELLER, U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, Migratory Bird Management, 1011 E. Tudor Road, ms 201, Anchorage,
Alaska 99503; 907-786-3517; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Common Loons (Gavia immer), Pacific Loons (G.
pacifica), and occasional Red-throated Loons (G. stellata) occupy lakes
in the lower Matanuska-Susitna Valley and northern Kenai Peninsula in south-central
Alaska. These populations may be impacted by increasing human settlement
and disturbance associated with the use of lakes for recreation. Volunteers
of the Alaska Loon and Grebe Watch began monitoring loons in 1985; however, this program
is limited in effort and geographic distribution. The expanse of loon habitat
with no road access has made extensive population-level monitoring difficult.
In May 2001, we began an aerial survey to determine the distribution, abundance,
productivity, and population trend of loons in south-central Alaska. The
data gathered will establish baseline information on loon populations useful for
monitoring, assessment, and management decisions. Specific objectives are:
monitor the trend of Common and Pacific Loon populations. With 5 years of
data, we will estimate the spatial and temporal scale for which reliable trend
information can be obtained.
2) To estimate the spatial distribution
and relative importance of various lakes and lake systems for loons (i.e. determine
which lakes tend to be occupied over time)
3) To estimate the production
of young in each geographic unit, for comparison of areas with different levels
of human impact.
4) To estimate the total population size for each
5) To relate loon distribution, population trend, and
productivity to other variables such as: a) general patterns of disturbance by
people, boats, aircraft, homes, pets, or commercial development, b) water quality,
c) populations of forage fish or northern pike.
ROBERT A. STEHN, ROBERT M. PLATTE, WILLIAM LARNED, TAMARA ZELLER, U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, Migratory Bird Management
Alaska Loon and Grebe Watch
The Alaska Loon and Grebe Watch was initiated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in 1985
to assess the distribution and nesting success of loons in Anchorage, where 65%
of Alaska’s human population lives. Lake surveys rely heavily on volunteer participation
and community efforts. Up to 200 lakes have been monitored each year since
1985 by volunteers throughout the local communities. LoonWatch information
includes names of lakes surveyed, dates observed, observer, number of adult and
juvenile loons seen, species of loons, nesting attempts, nest location, and estimated
chick survivorship. The involvement by local citizens has proved invaluable;
the program has not only stimulated interest in loon conservation, but has also
raised concern about the welfare of the local environment. The Alaska Loon and Grebes Watch
continues to monitor lakes in the Anchorage area and has expanded its efforts
to include surveys of lakes in the Matanuska-Susitna River Valley and on the Kenai
Personnel: TAMARA ZELLER, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, Migratory Bird Management
OF YELLOW-BILLED LOONS IN NORTHERN ALASKA (project description and preliminary
Lakes greater than 7ha on 61 7km x 7km plots were searched by 2
crews in Cessna 206 amphibious aircraft for Yellow-billed Loons, Pacific Loons,
and loon nests on the arctic coastal plain of Alaska 18-24 June 2003. The
objectives of this survey were to estimate loon population size, estimate loon
detection rate, and obtain loon locations for habitat modeling. Four plots
were searched independently by both crews sequentially to develop a detection
rate for each crew. Crews searched all water bodies within 5 plots to examine
potential use of smaller water bodies by Yellow-billed Loons.
indices from this survey were 2,090 yellow-billed loons and 39,945 Pacific loons
for the arctic coastal plain survey area. Yellow-billed Loons occurred more
frequently on large lakes relative to available lakes on the survey area.
Detection rate analysis and habitat modeling have not been completed. We
have derived independent habitat variables including lake size, perimeter, shoreline
shape, shoreline vegetation, distance to streams, and depth to use in a logistic
regression model to predict and map probability of yellow-billed loon occurrence
for the entire survey area. Results may be useful for management of the
species during potential oil and gas development on the arctic coastal plain.
plots (up to 81 more plots) will be surveyed in summer 2004 following the same
protocol as in 2003. All data will be analyzed and a final report will be
completed by spring 2005.
Personnel: ROBERT A. STEHN, ROBERT M. PLATTE,
WILLIAM LARNED, ED MALLEK, TAMARA ZELLER, DENNIS MARKS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, Migratory Bird Management
SUSAN L. EARNST, U.S. Geological Survey,
Forest & Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center
LEARNING ABOUT LOONS
ON THE KENAI PENINSULA
Common (Gavia immer) and Pacific (G.
pacifica) loons are high profile species of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
in south-central Alaska and a major attraction for tourists and residents seeking
a wilderness experience. As visitation and recreational use of lakes within the
refuge and surrounding area increase, breeding loons as well as other wildlife
face greater threats to their survival and reproductive success. These threats
can include overt acts of human disturbance, such as harassment and destruction
of habitat, or the less obvious hazards of discarded lead sinkers and monofilament
In recognition of the need to address these threats and conserve loons
for future generations, a proactive plan blending scientific investigation with
outreach and education was initiated in 2003 when a group of biologists began
a capture-marking program of loons on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
In all 6 loons were captured and banded with USFWS metal leg bands and color bands
for future identification. Also, two loons were fitted with satellite transmitters
allowing scientists to follow the movements of each loon for approximately one
year. High school students are currently working on projects utilizing the
satellite telemetry data to plot the movements of the loons in a GIS format for
display on the Internet.
TAMARA ZELLER, U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service, Migratory Bird Management
JOEL SCHMUTZ, DAN MULCAHY,
U.S. Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division
NICOLE JOHNSON, USFWS, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
DAVE EVERS, KATE TAYLOR,
Biodiversity Research Institute
JEFF FAIR, Fairwinds Wildlife Services