The Loon and Grebe Watch Program is a volunteer-based effort designed to collect valuable information about nesting Loons and Grebes in Southcentral and Interior Alaska. This program helps biologists monitor population trends and identify hazards facing these unique waterbirds in your community. It’s also a terrific opportunity to learn about Loons and Grebes, their ecology, and their wetland habitats.
Alaska’s Loons and Grebes
Alaska is home to all five species of Loons, however, only 3 species are commonly found in Southcentral and Interior Alaska: The Common Loon (large body, black head with white “necklace”); the Pacific Loon (gray head with white bars on back); and the Red-Throated Loon (smaller, gray head, red throat patch). Of these three, you are most likely to see Common and Pacific Loons. The remaining two loon species, Yellow-billed and Arctic Loons, breed primarily in arctic coastal areas.
There are two Grebe species that typically reside in Southcentral and Interior Alaska: the Red-Necked Grebe (chestnut neck, white cheek patches), and the Horned Grebe (much smaller, yellow eye patches). The Western Grebe and the Pied-Billed Grebe are rarely found in Alaska.
Both Loons and Grebes are migratory bird species, spending their summers in clear, freshwater lakes and their winters in coastal marine waters.
Loons and Grebes In Trouble
A decrease in Loon and Grebe occupancy and productivity on lakes in the Matanuska-Susitna area has been documented with data provided by Loon and Grebe Watch volunteers, raising concerns about the stability of these populations and the various pressures facing them. Loons and Grebes are an integral part of wetlands ecosystems, and are excellent indicators of environmental quality (clean air, clean water, and adequate open space). Habitat loss, due to the expansion of the human presence in lake areas, and the contamination and pollution of once pristine lakes, are two threats facing Loons and Grebes in Alaska today.
Specific factors involved in declines of Loons and Grebes in Alaska include:
- Litter – fishing line and plastics can entangle Loons and Grebes as well as other wildlife.
- Use of Lead Sinkers – Loons may ingest these while looking for small pebbles which aid in their digestion.
- Wakes by motorized watercraft – these can destroy Loon & Grebe habitat.
- Getting too Close – If you see a Loon or Grebe rising out of the water and running and splashing, you are too close. This may result in abandonment of the nest by the adult, which may lead to the eggs becoming too cold and die or introduce the risk of predation.
You can become a Citizen Scientist and help in the conservation of Loon and Grebe species in Alaska. You can help gather information for scientists on local Loon and Grebe species in your area by following these three easy steps:
- Monitor Loons and Grebes – simply write down your observations along with the location of “your” lake. See Survey Instructions for Volunteers
- Complete a Loon and Grebe Watch Survey Form – see Alaska Loon and Grebe Watch Survey Form
- Return Survey via address or email listed below – contact us for a pre-addressed stamped envelope to return your survey forms.
If you are interested in participating in the Citizen Science Program to aid in the conservation of Loon and Grebe populations in your area, view more information from Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Educate Yourself about Loons and Grebes
Identify Loons and Grebes common in Southcentral and Interior Alaska by sight and sound
Click on a thumbnail below to see a larger image. Click on the word “Listen…” below each of the pictures to hear common calls.
Listen to Common Loon [mp3]
Listen to Pacific Loon [mp3]
Listen to Red Throated Loon [mp3]
Listen to Red Necked Grebe [mp3]
Listen to Horned Grebe [mp3]