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Photo of an adult common loon and chicks

Photo: Photodisc

Where there is water, there is wildlife. More than 40 percent of North America's breeding waterfowl nest on and around the boreal forest's lakes and wetlands, mostly in the parts of the forest west of the Canadian Shield. As many as 107 species of waterbirds -- including ducks, geese, pelicans, grebes, cranes, shorebirds and other waterfowl -- make the trip north each spring.

One of these summertime visitors, the common loon, is among the most-loved emblems of the northern woods. The Cree people call the loon mookwa, or "spirit of northern waters"; one hearing of a loon's haunting wails and yodels echoing over a darkened boreal lake will convince you of the wisdom of the name. Like most birds, loons form breeding pair bonds, but the strength of a loon couple's loyalty to each other is remarkable. They mate for life, and return to the same lake each year to breed; pairs of loons have been observed raising chicks each summer on their chosen breeding territory for up to 20 years. If one bird dies, the other will nonetheless return to the same spot each summer and will not breed with another loon, waiting in vain for the return of its partner.

last revised 7/20/2004

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