Breeding populations of the common loon (Gavia immer) in Michigan have declined in the past several decades, resulting in classification of this species as threatened under state law. Factors responsible for the decline are unknown, but may include toxic contaminants, mortality in commercial fish nets, and human disturbance of breeding sites. To assess the latter possibility, 960 hours of observation were devoted to observing human-loon interactions on two sets of lakes, one with restricted human use (minimal or no shoreline development and open to canoe use only), and another with unrestricted use (varying amounts of shoreline development and motorboat traffic). Six mated pairs of loons on six restricted use (r-u) lakes were compared to eight loon pairs on seven open-use (o-u) lakes. The number of nests that hatched young per nest started was not significantly different between the two sets of lakes (7 of 13 (0.62) on r-u lakes vs 8 of 17 (0.47) on o-u lakes), despite significantly more human activity on o-u lakes. Chicks hatched per pair of loons were likewise not significantly different (1.1 vs 1.2 on r-u and o-u lakes, respectively). Fledging success was significantly lower on r-u lakes (7 chicks fledged of 11 hatched) than on o-u lakes (13 fledged of 13 hatched). Human activity on o-u lakes was 2–3 times that on r-u lakes during chick rearing, but time spent by adult loons tending and feeding chicks was not significantly different between the two types of lakes. The larger size of most o-u lakes may have allowed loons a greater opportunity to avoid human disturbance. Higher levels of human activity did not affect production of chicks by loons under the conditions observed, but these results should not be extrapolated to lakes experiencing much higher human use.
- 1 - sciences appliquees, technologies et medecines
- 2 - sciences biologiques et medicales
- 3 - sciences biologiques fondamentales et appliquees. psychologie
- 4 - ethologie animale