Saving Washington's Loons
By Jennifer Gould
Earlier this summer we received two separate calls minutes apart about the same bird that appeared to be injured out at Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park in Renton.
The first man that called was very concerned that a bird was sitting on the shore and seemed unable to get up and walk away when approached. I asked him if he would be able to try to catch the bird and bring it to us so that we could try to help it. As soon as I hung up the phone, it rang again! This time it was a different man calling about an injured or sick Loon that was sitting on the beach of Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park. He said that he could catch the bird and bring it to us. I told him that there was another gentleman in the vicinity that had called about this same bird. Between the two of them they caught the Loon and brought it to us for further care.
I had never seen a loon in person before and was a little shocked at the size of these birds. They are easily as big as a goose. I was absolutely blown away by the sheer beauty of this bird. The photos do not do them justice. They are absolutely gorgeous.
To learn more about Loons and to hear their strange calls visit The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds.
We did what we could for the loon, but unfortunately we found he had died overnight. Out of curiosity, I shot radiographs of the dead Loon and was surprised at what I found. The loon had ingested a fishing lure with a lead sinker. There was no fishing hook, but the lead was enough to slowly poison this bird and cause his untimely death.
According to a Washington State Fish & Wildlife publication ingestion of lead fishing gear is the single largest cause of mortality in Washington’s Loons accounting for 39% of all mortalities in the state.