The common loon is easily identifiable with its regally patterned black and white coat of feathers in the summer. In the winter, they are plain grey with a white breast (this is also what the chicks look like until they become adults). Common loons are powerful, agile divers that catch small fish in fast underwater chases. They are less suited to land, and typically come ashore only to nest. Unlike most birds, loons have solid bones that make them less buoyant and better at diving. They can quickly blow air out of their lungs and flatten their feathers to expel air within their plumage, so they can dive quickly and swim fast underwater.
In the United States of America, the bald eagle has been the national emblem since 1782. And for the native people of North America, it’s been a spiritual symbol for far longer! These large birds aren’t really bald, but their white-feathered heads gleam in contrast to their brown body and wings. You can find them soaring in solitude, chasing other birds for their food, or gathering by the hundreds in winter. Bald eagles were once endangered by hunting and pesticides, but recently have flourished under protection.
While the bald eagle is incredibly large and powerful, its calls are surprisingly weak-sounding! These are usually a series of high-pitched whistling or piping notes. Female eagles also have their own signature call - a single soft note that alerts nearby males that she is ready to mate. In one of several amazing courtship displays, a male and female fly high into the sky, lock talons, and cartwheel downward together, breaking off at the last instant to avoid crashing to the earth. Bald eagles build some of the largest of all bird nests - typically 5 to 6 feet in diameter and 2 to 4 feet tall, and ranging in shape depending on the supporting tree! These nests can take up to three months to build, and are used by the same mated pair year after year.
You probably won’t find any loons or eagles relaxing in your backyard, but there are tons of unique birds and other wildlife that visit every so often. Try making a wildlife journal to catalogue what you see and write down how many times it’s stopped by!
Make a Bird Feeder
Common backyard birds will eat seeds on the ground or from flowers, but it’s much easier for them to eat from a bird feeder. Instead of going out and buying an expensive device, a recycled bottle will work just as well! To make your own bird feeder at home, you’ll need a plastic bottle and a couple of smaller wooden spoons.
Using a scissors or other sharp tool, poke four holes in the bottle, starting about halfway down. Each pair of holes should be right across from the other. You can then stick the handles of the wooden spoons through the plastic. Try to angle the spoon downwards so some of the bird seed spills onto it for the birds to eat. Once everything is in place, fill the bottle with your choice of bird seed and place it wherever you’d like to see some feathery friends!
PL Field. “Loon in the Water”. Released into the public domain. Uploaded on 7/7/17 from publicdomainpictures.net
Markham, Pete. “Baby Loons”. Released into the public domain. Uploaded on 7/7/17 from commons.wikimedia.org
Audubon, John James. “White-Headed Eagle”. Released into the public domain. Uploaded on 7/7/17 from commons.wikimedia.org