June 18 – 24, 2021Vol. 23, No. 2

The Foot Waggle

by Dick Greenan

A Long Pond loon does the "foot waggle" (2021).

Did some duck just spear our loon with an extra leg? Did our loon suffer a collision with a boat or just an angry mate? Is he/she merely waving to us as we float by? Or is this just another example of strange but normal loon behavior? Yes, it is very normal and is called the foot waggle!

According to the loon experts at New Hampshire's Loon Preservation Committee, "The Foot Waggle is a behavior in which loons raise one foot above the water and shake it vigorously. There are many theories as to its function — it could be a comfort movement used when loons need to stretch, it could be used to help loons reduce their body temperatures, or it could have another purpose that we are not yet aware of."

A 2020 Great Pond adult Loon gives blood during a banding session. Note the toenails!

And if you look really closely, you will see three distinct toenails on this webbed foot. Each toenail is about the same size as an adult human's pinky toenail. But the reason for their toenails is another whole story which we'll visit in an upcoming column!

As I write this column, Great Pond has five nesting pairs and Long Pond has just four but those numbers should be on the increase as we are in the middle of our nesting season. At least we hope that the numbers will increase if we are to maintain a healthy loon population on our lakes.

Dick Greenan is chairman of the Belgrade Lakes Association's Loon Preservation Project. If you have a particular question regarding our Belgrade loon population, please email your inquiry to info@blamaine.org, and he will try to answer you either in this column or via email.