Sushi fit for a loon

[I showed you the loons being rescued last winter, but now it is the halcyon days.]

I have been taking my kayak to a nearby pond that is big enough for loons to inhabit. A pair are raising a single chick, and their solicitude is a joy to watch. They bring tiny fish:

and sometimes drop their offering just out of the chick’s grasp so it has to search for it, in training for finding its own one day.

New to me was a different menu item, crayfish:

The first time I saw this, the chick looked somewhat unnerved by this wriggly spiky bit of sushi (rather like the deep-fried head of an ama-ebi, one of my favorites)

But a few days later there was no hesitation at all

though the legs took a bit of managing:

Here is a video of a crayfish delivery, a week later, with a botched hand-off and a quick recovery.

The crayfish live in the shallows, and when the adults were hunting them they splashed around making a lot of kerfuffle, and sending tiny fish leaping in the air for safety.

As the chick gets bigger, so do the fish.

This was a serious mouthful, but down it went.

After about 45 minutes of feeding the chicks, one adult caught a much bigger fish, far too large for the chick to manage. The hornpout (aka bullhead or catfish) was still very much alive,

so the loon kept diving (perhaps to bash it on the bottom?)

and shaking it until eventually it was dead enough to eat. A face-on loon in hunting mode is quite intimidating: those red eyes are the stuff of nightmares.

It turned it around and down it went in one large gulp (watch to the end; halfway through the video the loon dives for a while, and then comes up again):

The baby was already diving for quite long periods, and occasionally seemed to come up with something edible, though I couldn’t see what. It was also flapping its almost non-existent wings!

One day it will have stunning black-and-white breeding plumage like its parents.

Next time, more on how the transition from brown fluff to tuxedo-like elegance happens.

PS Around here there is an annual loon count, and also research projects that band the loons whenever possible. One of the adults was wearing brightly colored ankle jewellery, and it tells me this one is the female. Last year she was on the same pond with the same mate. This is not always the case: loons do not mate for life.

4 thoughts on “Sushi fit for a loon”

  1. Wonderful photos & story about the loons…it would take a little bit of adjusting to swallow a wiggily crayfish….amazing that they can digest (??) the shell…or maybe they dispose of it, like an owl gets rid of a pellet?


  2. So beautiful to watch. I love to hear their voices, the calls to one another. Looking forward to the transition to adulthood.


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