Loons (lat. Gavia) - one of the most ancient birds on earth, are part of the order of loons. Fossil remains of the oldest loon belong to the Upper Oligocene of North America. From the Lower Miocene, the history of the genus itself begins under the name Gagars.
Now on earth there are 5 types of loons. Their habitat is limited to the Northern Hemisphere - this is the territory from the forest-steppe to the polar deserts. Loons are migratory birds.
They hibernate near the non-freezing seas of Europe and the Pacific coast. And when the reservoirs where they nest become free of ice, loons again come to these places. The size of these birds is comparable to the size of a goose, weighing up to six kilograms. Loons are adapted to life, which is closely related to the aquatic environment. They spend their entire lives on the water. The exception (landfall) is the nesting period.
Loons live more than twenty years. It is believed that the pairs of these birds do not break up throughout their lives. The main food base for loons is small fish. The diet is replenished with worms, insects, molluscs and crustaceans. Plants are rarely eaten.
All currently existing types of loons live in Russia. These are black-throated, red-throated (two of the most numerous species in our country), white-billed (nesting outside the Arctic Circle, in the Russian Federation this species is represented by a small number of individuals), polar (inhabited by the Commander Islands) and white-necked (found in the north of Chukotka) loons. The white-billed loon is already listed in the Red Book.
Loons swim great. The body of these birds has a fusiform shape, the paws are equipped with membranes and brought back - this is what allows the loons to swim perfectly.
Loons dive well. And these amazing birds are adapted to this. They have a fairly heavy skeleton and can press feathers against the body, thereby reducing the amount of air underneath. After such adaptation it is very easy for loons to dive. They can dive to a depth of 75 meters, they are able to stay under water for about eight minutes. If there is any danger, the loons would rather dive under the water (which, by the way, they know how to do with amazing speed) than fly into the air.
Loons are sea birds. They can be seen in freshwater bodies only during breeding, as well as on migration. They spend the rest of their lives by the sea.
The breeding season is characterized by nesting in stagnant reservoirs that have clean water. Near this very water, a nest is settled - however, most often on the shore with dense vegetation in the form of grasses. One more characteristic should have the selected reservoir - its diameter cannot be less than the length of the takeoff run of the loons. And it is about fifty meters. Loons build a nest from grass and dead plants. From it they make 1-2 holes for lowering into the water and lifting back.
The loons return to their nest every year. At the same time, they inform their neighbors about their arrival with loud cries. If another individual approaches the place of their nest, then the loons swim towards it and try to frighten it: they shout, slap their paws on the water, etc. this rivalry can go as far as fighting.
A clutch of loons contains two eggs. Less often - one, even less often - three. The shape of the loon eggs is oblong; color - dark brown or green-brown, contains dark specks and specks. Both the male and the female participate in incubating eggs (although the female spends much more time on this).
Loons draw attention away from the nest in an interesting way. If the loon senses the approach of danger, it goes for a trick: it quietly slides into the water, then dives away from the nest and swims with a completely indifferent look to everything. To scare off the enemy, the loon can also start screaming, flapping its wings, etc.
From birth, nestlings of loons can swim perfectly. Practically so. Nevertheless, they spend the first days after hatching, hiding in the grass - on the shore. Or they travel around the surrounding area on the back of their parents! Only after six or even seven weeks do they become independent.
Loons find it difficult to move on land. And this is the truth. Those features of their structure, which give these birds the opportunity to swim and dive well, make it difficult for their free movement on land - here they can only crawl, while pushing off the ground with their paws. But loon chicks move on the ground quite easily.
Loons take off only from water and land only on water. Takeoff is actually preceded by a fairly long run on the water, and even against the wind. Loons do not know how to maneuver well in the air, which is due to the small size of the wings and tail. Therefore, they fly straight and fast. One of the distinguishing features of loons from other waterfowl is the way of "landing" - they sit right on the belly, while they do not slow down either with their paws or wings.
Loons have a loud voice. And the very name of these birds came from the shrill cry "ga-ga-rra" (especially often you can hear it during the nesting period). This call can come either only from the male, or from both partners (in red-throated loons).
Loons concerts are amazing. A traveler, finding himself in the habitat of loons, can easily be frightened by laughter in the morning fog. These are the loons "laughing". "Crazy as a loon." This is nothing more than a proverb, the roots of which live in the warning cry of polar and white-billed loons - it is very similar to shrill and loud laughter.
Loons and toadstools - one unit. Some zoologists think so. Indeed, outwardly, these birds are very similar to each other. Their lifestyle is also similar. Still, the division of these birds into two independent orders is more common. In fact, they even differ in the arrangement of the membranes on the fingers. And the number of eggs laid also varies greatly. Loons in clutch on average have two eggs (olive green), and toadstools - from three to eight (off-white). The loons are much larger than the toadstools.
Loons living in the European part of Russia have been hunting objects for a long time. And the point here is not at all in meat (it is edible, but due to the existing taste of fish oil, few people ate it). Earlier, ladies' hats and muffs made of loon skins were in fashion. They were also used to make slippers, which, by the way, were part of the national costume of the Karelians.