Minnesota’s state bird, the loon, prefers to nest on calm, sheltered coasts with lots of weeds.
But undisturbed lakeshore is becoming a rare commodity in Minnesota.
A nonprofit organization is helping to conserve relatively undisturbed land on two lakes in northern Crow Wing County to protect critical habitats for loons.
The Crosslake-based National Loon Center purchased six acres – including more than 2,500 feet of shoreline – near Fifty Lakes. Executive Director Jon Mobeck said the land is an ideal nesting habitat.
“We know there are two nesting loons near this property,” he said. “So it’s a prime spot right on the peninsula between the two great lakes, and there’s a canal that connects them.”
Mobeck said the lakes are home to several loons that have been banded for research.
He does not make the exact location of the property public because he wants to protect the loons from gawkers until they have a plan for visitor management.
However, Mobeck hopes that in the future the website will provide the public with an opportunity to learn about loons in their natural environment.
“So in addition to the raw value of the habitat there is also an educational contribution,” he said.
The Loon Center received a $ 355,000 grant to purchase from the state’s Outdoor Heritage Fund, which receives sales tax revenue from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.
Minnesota is home to about 12,000 loons, more than any other state except Alaska. They face constant threats including climate change, pollutants like lead and mercury, and human disturbance.
Loss of nesting habitat is a significant threat to loons as people develop their coastal property with beaches, rocks, docks, or other amenities. Loons prefer an herbaceous, swampy habitat with a good protective cover, said Mobeck.
âWhen someone buys a piece of land, that’s often the first,â he says. “What loons like to nest is what, unfortunately, humans normally like to destroy.”
Loons have also been threatened by the increased boat traffic many Minnesota lakes experienced during the pandemic as more people seek outdoor recreation.
Educating the public about the protection of loons and their habitat is one of the main tasks of the National Loon Center, which plans to open an interpretation and research center in Crosslake in 2024.
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