Maine Audubon’s annual loon count turned 40 in July, and volunteer counters tallied loons on the highest number of lakes since the count began.

On July 15, 1,503 volunteer loon counters headed out to a record 374 lakes to gather important data, allowing Maine Audubon to calculate a population estimate for southern Maine and keep an eye on trends over time, according to a news release from Melissa Kim with Maine Audubon.

Though the count itself lasts only half an hour, volunteers and coordinators commit to much more than just 30 minutes. From the Rangeley Lakes region to Moosehead and down to Sebago, coordinators are organizing counters on huge lakes, helping assign people to one of many survey areas, conducting outreach, and tallying up their individual lake numbers. Counters get out on the lakes earlier than 7 a.m., making sure their boat tanks are full and scouting locations and boundaries.

“The continued dedication from loon counters over the last 40 years is a testament to how committed people are to loons and conservation efforts in Maine,” said Maine Audubon Loon Count Coordinator Hannah Young. “Every counter has a unique story about how they became involved or what the loons mean to them — this project is lucky to have such a range of experiences and backgrounds.”

Across the 374 lakes included, counters tallied 2,299 adults and 178 chicks. To determine the population estimate for the southern half of Maine (south of the 45th parallel, where enough lakes are covered by counters to determine a reliable estimate), Audubon estimates the adult and chick numbers across all lakes in the southern half based on a random sample of those actually counted. Based on those calculations, it projects a population of 2,892 adults and 411 chicks for the southern half of Maine.

This is the second year in a row the estimated population of adults has decreased, but Maine Audubon biologists are not worried. There was a similar drop in adult numbers between 2005-07 and again in 2018-20, but both times were followed by a marked increase in the next year. As a reminder, the estimates look at numbers over time, and since the overall trend has continued upwards over the years, the year-to-year fluctuations are not worrisome.

When the loon count began 40 years ago, aerial surveys were done to count on 100 random lakes to estimate the loon population in the north. Pilots interested in starting this up again can email


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