How to Have A Loon & Lake Friendly Weekend

National Loon Center
4 min readMay 26, 2023
An adult common loon sits on the surface of the water, which has an olive green tint to it. The loon’s head is pointed to the left and a bead of water is under its bill.
Photo by Brandi Grahl

Memorial Day weekend and all the weekends that follow are busy times for lake country waters. We’d like to reshare the advice written by our 2022 Community Outreach Intern, Ava, on how we can all enjoy these beautiful waters while having a loon and lake friendly weekend.

When taking your first step into the water, you may notice nesting loons near the shoreline. Adult Common Loons usually nest at the water’s edge of protected bays or small islands and once the eggs hatch, the small chicks are quite vulnerable. Staying at least 200 feet (the length of a standard ice hockey rink) from loon families, will give them enough space to remain undisturbed. While on a nest, a loon that feels threatened may flatten their body and neck over the water in the hangover position. Loons will do the penguin dance if they feel threatened, and seeing this display is a sign to back away. If you hear the tremolo of a loon, that is another warning sign that either you or a predator is too close to the loon or their chicks. Keep this knowledge in mind, and appreciate all wildlife from a non-intrusive distance.

A common loon sits on a nest on the water’s edge beneath the green leaves of some bushes. The loons had is flattened over the surface of the water and pointing towards the camera view.
This photo shows how loon nests may be well hidden and the defensive posture of the hangover position. Photo by mirceax from Getty Images.

Cruising around the lake and reeling in fish is certainly part of the fun, but we can be careful in our actions. When out on the boat, keeping a slow speed and observing no wake zones near the shoreline protects the nests and homes of various wild animals, including loons. Wakes should be limited to open areas in the middle of large lakes. Additionally, all fast moving water crafts should always watch out for swimming and diving loons. In the summer of 2022, the National Loon Center recently received a call from a community member that found a deceased loon near shore. Ava brought the loon to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for necropsy studies. The diagnosis came back that the likely cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head. We are not able to say for sure what could cause that, but we might guess that it would have been from a boat or jet ski collision. The National Loon Center began research on loon mortalities in 2021. Several of the necropsied loons so far have been diagnosed with blunt force trauma. To avoid facing similar situations going forward, water craft drivers should be mindful and attentive at all times.

A white buoy with orange lines and black writing that says “Slow. No Wake.” In front of the buoy is an adult common loon facing its chick. A green shoreline is blurred in the background.
Observe no wake zones to protect the shorelines, nesting loons, and young chicks. Photo by Sheila Farrell Johnston.

The necropsy studies have revealed other unfortunate outcomes for the loons. In the summer of 2021, a deceased loon was found and results indicated lead intoxication as the likely cause of death. Lost lead pieces at the bottom of a lake can be mistaken as a pebble by loons or loons may consume fish that carry lead jigs and sinkers. In each situation, the loon would most likely fatally suffer from lead poisoning. Thus, fishing lead-free and keeping fishing lines out of the water when loons and other wildlife are nearby keeps all inhabitants of the lake safe.

What’s on the line when we use lead tackle on the freshwater lakes where loons breed? The National Loon Center encourages anglers to make the switch to lead-free, loon-safe tackle.

Humans and wildlife alike depend on clean water to survive. Putting in effort to keep any pollutants and unnatural substances out of the water is important to keeps our lakes healthy. We recommend using rest facilities located on shore, not using soaps or shampoos in the lakes, and using trash containers on our boats and at our campsites. We encourage you to clean your watercraft and gear before leaving any water access or shoreland, taking special care to remove any aquatic plants, especially invasive species like zebra mussels. To ensure our kids will have healthy lakes to play in, and our loons and other wildlife will have a suitable habitat, we can start with keeping our waters clean today.

The lakes are a special place that we hope people will get to enjoy for generations to come. Thank you in advance for respecting freshwater ecosystems not only this upcoming weekend, but each day following. We want to keep the Common Loons common and we need your help. The magical call of the loon contributes to making your experience in the north woods so memorable- so join us in answering the call and protecting our loons long into the future.

A pontoon is leaving the frame of the photo in the bottom left corner of the photo. You can see two people on the boat. A forested shoreline is in the distance and the sun is descending into the horizon behind the boat.
Photo by Ava Rohleder

Wishing you all a safe and fun summer in the North Woods!



National Loon Center

The National Loon Center restores and protects loon breeding habitats, enhances responsible recreation, and catalyzes critical loon and freshwater research.