My Favorite Bird? The Common Loon

maine, nature, loon

As I travel around the United States, I often meet fellow birders and avian researchers. We can gab about species all day long, from secretive marsh birds to colorful warblers to regional endemics. And yet, the conversation always rolls around to the same question: “What is your favorite bird?”

My answer always comes easily, and I have Maine to thank.

Throughout my childhood my family spent the summers on the shores of Kennebago Lake in the Rangeley region of Maine. My siblings and I looked for newts and leeches, we hiked mountains and ridges, and we swam in the cool waters of the lake itself. At night I fell asleep to the calls of the Common Loon, and those memories have stayed with me all these years later.

I see a Common Loon on nearly every visit I make to Maine. In the summer breeding season, they are dark black and white, with deep red eyes that could look menacing if loons weren’t so strikingly beautiful.

Loons were built to dive for prey, and can submerge themselves to catch fish, crustaceans, and other food. To aid in their underwater maneuvers, Common Loons have solid bones.

maine, nature, loon

This past summer I spent a few days paddling the Allagash Wilderness Waterway with my husband. Coming to a small pond within the river system, we spotted two loons.  Holding our breath, we floated just close enough to make out the fuzzy, tiny silhouette in between the two; a baby loon! The sighting remains one of my favorite summer memories.

To sum up:

1. Nostalgia?


2. Beautiful bird?


3. Cool behavior?


4. Adorable chicks?

Double check.

It’s no secret why the Common Loon remains my favorite bird species year after year!


Erika Zambello

About Erika Zambello

Erika Zambello is a writer, birder, and photographer, born and raised in Maine. She has a bachelor’s degree in Government and Anthropology from Cornell University, and a master’s degree in Environmental Management from Duke University, specializing in ecosystem science and conservation. Her love of the outdoors was inspired by her childhood in Maine, and she returned for her National Geographic Young Explorer grant in 2015-2016.