About the Connors Lake Pacific Loons
This loon nest is in Anchorage, Alaska, on a small lake right next to the Anchorage International Airport (map). Each year for the past nine years, cam host Jean Tam has broadcast the nesting season of these gorgeous birds—using an artificial nesting island to make the camera set-up possible (see "About the Artificial Island" below). The constant stream of airplanes overhead doesn’t seem to bother them, nor does the adjacent highway or the off-leash dog park surrounding the lake—truly these are “urban” loons.
Pacific Loons are thought to be monogamous within a breeding season and may remain paired in subsequent years as well. The same female has used this island since 2003, when she was banded (look for her bands: blue over white on the left leg; a metal band on the right). Jean suspects that several unbanded males have been her mates in different years based on differences in behavior. Both sexes share incubation. Males and females look similar, but the female is slightly smaller and each year’s male has seemed to be much more alert on the nest than the female.
Learn more about Pacific Loons in our Species Guide.
2012 Breeding Details
Pacific Loons typically lay 1–2 eggs in a clutch. This nest contains two eggs, the first laid on May 19 and the second on May 22. Incubation lasts around four weeks, so the first egg should hatch around June 14, with the second hatching a day or so later. The nestlings will remain in the nest until both eggs hatch and the nestlings are dry, at which point they will be brooded on the nest for about a week before they depart. Over the next seven weeks or so, the loon chicks follow their parents around the lake learning to swim and forage before fledging.
About the Artificial Island
Pacific Loons typically nest in shallow depressions along the edges of lakes and ponds. When Jean moved to the area she noticed that there was little suitable nesting habitat along the edge of Connors Lake due to disturbances from dogs and people. Her husband, Scott Christy, after hearing a talk by a loon researcher in the early 1990s, built an artificial island out of spruce logs and plywood. That original island was reconstructed in 2002 using longer-lasting cedar logs, wired for the cam set-up, and fitted with a canopy that shelters the nest from aerial predators. Each year the lake freezes; following the spring melt, volunteers relaunch the island with a fresh bed of bulrushes for the female to use in nest-building.
A local newspaper story and slideshow offers a better look at the island and what it takes to deploy it each year.
Learn more: Pacific Loons in the Cornell Lab's All About Birds guide
Cam resources for Educators
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