Radio tagged loons returning to Minnesota from migration

Unseasonably warm weather has brought loons back to Minnesota almost three weeks earlier than usual.

At least six of the 29 loons that have had radio and satellite telemetry devices placed in them by researchers have returned to their breeding lakes in Minnesota as of April 11, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

One of the loons, known as “M2,” returned to Big Mantrap Lake in northern Minnesota March 29.

“This is a very exciting time in science exploration,” said Carrol Henderson, supervisor of the DNR’s Nongame Wildlife Program. “We have been able to learn more about our fabulous state bird than we have ever known before.”

During the last two years, the loons were equipped with satellite transmitters in an effort to study their migratory movements and foraging patterns while migrating.

Most of the loons that are part of this research project left Minnesota in October and spent about a month on Lake Michigan before departing for the Gulf of Mexico in early December.

“Before using the technology of these devices, scientists had no idea that most Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan loons ‘stage’ on Lake Michigan together before flying south to the gulf,” Henderson said.

The satellite transmitters send a signal about every other day that allows researchers to see exactly where the loons are during their travels around the country.

The research project is being done by the Minnesota DNR’s Nongame Wildlife Program in cooperation with scientists from the United States Geological Survey and the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center in La Crosse, Wis. Donations to the Nongame Wildlife fund on Minnesota tax forms helped to fund this project. Funding for the project also comes from the Minnesota Natural Resource’s Trust Fund.

Watch the migratory patterns of loons from Minnesota and the other Great Lakes states.

More information about Minnesota’s loon monitoring program is available online.

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