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Maine Loon Restoration Project

Maine is home to the largest population of loons in the Northeast but Maine loons face threats both on breeding lakes and offshore wintering areas. The Maine Loon Restoration Project is a five-year project that aims to give Maine loons better chances for breeding success and reduce threats to their survival. Funding was provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service on behalf of the Bouchard Barge 120 Buzzards Bay Oil Spill Trustees.

The Maine Loon Restoration Project aims to increase loon nesting success and decrease loon mortality by engaging volunteers in four efforts:

  • Placing artificial nests (rafts) and monitoring nesting success on rafts;
  • Expanding Fish Lead Free programs to reduce lead tackle use and loon lead poisoning;
  • Launching a Look Out for Loons Program to reduce disturbance to nesting loons and decrease loon mortality through education and outreach, as well as signage at highly disturbed nests. The project engages teams of volunteers all over the state to help with many different education, outreach, and management activities.


Overview of the Loon Restoration Program video

Loon Monitoring training video 

On the afternoon of Sunday, April 27, 2003, just south of Westport, Massachusetts, an oil tanker operated by the Bouchard Transportation Company passed on the wrong side of a navigational marker and struck rocks underwater, gouging a 12-foot hole in its hull. In the hours that followed, 98,000 gallons of heavy #6 fuel flowed into Buzzards Bay.

Oil washed up along 100 miles of beaches, rocky shoreline, marshes and tidal flats. 76 loons were found dead and 128 oiled loons collected, of which only 9 survived. More oiled loons continued to be found over the following summer.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) estimated that 531 Common Loons over-wintering or migrating through the area of the spill died as a result of the spill. Eighteen years after the spill, in 2021, a settlement was reached with the company responsible for the spill through Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program (NRDAR). The settlement from this spill, announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on June 16, 2021, has led to funding for restoration of loons on their breeding grounds, and Maine Audubon is pleased to be one of the funding recipients.  Maine Audubon’s proposal for the five-year Maine Loon Restoration Project, A Comprehensive Approach by Maine Partners to Restore Common Loon Losses Resulting from the B-120 Oil Spill, was awarded $825,445. This project is a collaboration between Maine Audubon, Maine Lakes, Lakes Environmental Association, and the Penobscot Indian Nation, in collaboration with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
• Read more about the grant funding here

Signs of the Seasons
Rescheduled for April 12, 10:30 am-12:30 pm
An in-person event at Gilsland Farm Audubon Center in Falmouth
Hosted by Maine Sea Grant, co-hosted by Maine Audubon

Participants will learn about the Signs of the Seasons program, how to make observations of phenology (the study of cyclic and seasonal changes of plants and animals), practice making phenology observations on the grounds of Gilsland Farm, and leave with the tools and knowledge needed to set up their own site to record changes in phenology in their own yard or community. register here 

Introduction to the Look Out for Loons Program
Wednesday April 10, 12-1 pm and 5-6 pm
A free online event/webinar hosted by Maine Lakes with two time options 

Join a virtual gathering with Maine Lakes “Look Out for Loons” staff and other project partners to hear more about how you can join a growing team of volunteers who are working to decrease disturbance to nesting loons, and increase their nesting success, by sharing information, actions, and advice to lake users and visitors. You’ll learn about the many different options for getting involved. register here 

Look Out for Loons Program: Refresher Training for Past Participants
A free online event/webinar hosted by Maine lakes
Thursday April 11, 5-6pm register here

The goal of the loon nesting raft program is to increase the number of loon chicks hatched through placement and monitoring of nearly 100 artificial nesting platforms or “rafts” in territories with low nesting success. When used in the right ways and right situations, rafts have been helping loon pairs hatch chicks for more than 50 years. But to benefit loons, rafts must be used correctly and in the right situations. Otherwise they can actually hurt a loon pair’s chances of a hatching chicks.

First, before placing a raft, it’s important to consider if loons on the lake are actually in trouble. Loons don’t necessarily nest every year and aren’t successful at nesting 100% of the time. Just because a pair doesn’t hatch chicks every year – doesn’t mean they need our help. And rafts can only help with certain problems like water level changes, loss of nesting habitat, predation from land animals, or potentially moving a nest further from onshore disturbance. 

If you have a pair on your lake or pond that has failed to hatch chicks for at least three years for one of these reasons, and are interested in a raft, email: We’re working with local residents to identify loon pairs that are failing to hatch chicks year after year and to figure out what’s causing the problem. 

When we find a pair that is a good candidate for a raft, we’re helping to build and place rafts out on the water and teach volunteers how to monitor and maintain them.  Check out our Common Loon Nesting Rafts guide for more details. 

Or watch this video for more information about how to tell if a raft might be right for your pond; which type of raft might be the best fit for your location; and how to choose a good spot for a raft.  

Before getting started with a raft, please consider that rafts are a serious investment of time and take active management. Rafts are place in the spring and then either need to be taken out of the water and properly stored or prepared for overwintering in place (with the possibility that repairs may be required the following spring.)

Placing a raft or floating nesting sign involves much more than putting them out on the water. Proper placement, monitoring and maintenance are very important! A raft in the wrong location can invite attacks from loon competitors or put the pair in harm’s way. Signs are beneficial only if they don’t attract more attention to nest. Wind and waves can remove nesting material or move anchors and rafts sometimes need additional floatation. Monitoring is important to track how well rafts and signs are working to assist struggling loon pairs and at-risk nest sites, and to shed light on issues and incidents that might occur. 

The success of this project depends on local volunteers to monitor loons weekly in territories where rafts and signs are placed, collecting detailed data on the raft’s condition, a loon pair’s nesting activity, success hatching chicks, and chick survival. Your surveys help us learn where chicks hatch and if they survive, and provide clues as to why nesting doesn’t succeed.  And by being out there on the water observing, some of you have also been able to report when a boat’s wake flooded a nest or watercraft got too close to a loon family or nest. 

We hold online webinars on how to monitor a breeding loon pair in areas where rafts or nesting signs are placed. In 2024, we’re offering two online training sessions leading to monitoring certification.

Monitoring Hatching Success of Loon Breeding Pairs

Watch the recording from the webinar on April 2nd 2024 here

We also provide on-site and on-the-water monitoring training during lake visits or when we visit your lake to help deploy your raft.  

Monitoring Resources                                                                                                                                   

In addition to these training sessions, you will need to review and familiarize yourself with the resources below before beginning loon monitoring. Be sure to print out copies of the survey form and reference sheet to bring on the water with you for your survey. In addition, use the resources below to learn more about loons and how close is too close when you’re surveying nesting loons.

Common Loon Breeding Pair Survey Form
Download a printable survey form for your lake. Email completed forms to or mail to: Maine Audubon, 20 Gilsland Farm Rd., Falmouth ME 04105 attn: Loon Restoration Project

Enter your data online here

Monitoring Instructions

Reference Sheet for identifying loon stress behaviors, territorial signs, and chick development stages while you’re on the water.

How Close Is Too Close? Brochure on loon stress behaviors and how to know if you’re too close to a loon

Additional Loon Resources:

More on loon behavior

Clues to Nest Failure

Loon Band Sighting Guide

Maine Audubon has been involved in Fish Lead Free programs for years. With this grant we’re expanding the program to include more tackle exchanges, include more retailers in our tackle buyback program, and increase the number of lead tackle and monofilament line collection bins.

• Interested in hosting a lead tackle exchange on your lake? We can provide brochures, stickers, and other education materials, as well as lead-free tackle to give out to people who turn in their old lead tackle. Email to start planning your event.

• Would you like to put up a lead tackle and monofilament line collection bin at your boat ramp? Maine Audubon can provide construction plans and reimbursement for any materials purchased. Email for more information.

For more information about the Fish Lead Free Initiative, go to

During the first two years of the Maine Loon Restoration Project, project partners worked with dozens of local volunteers to distribute outreach materials, conduct presentations, and place nesting signs in appropriate locations, all in an effort to raise awareness of actions we can take to better co-exist with loons.  In 2023 Maine Lakes hired staff to manage and grow the Look Out for Loons outreach and education program and improve nest protection efforts. The Look Out for Loons Program now provides training and support to volunteers statewide on how to conduct local loon outreach through one-on-one conversations, presentations, educational materials, and Fish Lead Free events, as well as how to determine when and where nesting signs might be appropriate (see Upcoming Events

Look Out for Loon volunteers will receive training in identifying loon stress behaviors so they can help educate people about when they are too close to a loon or nest. We will also work with volunteers to place Look Out for Loon signs and brochures at boat ramps and kiosks, and nesting signs where appropriate. With the help of Look Out for Loons trained volunteers, we can get the word out to lake users to slow down around loons and to give loons space especially during nesting.  Goals of the program are to raise awareness about how human disturbance can reduce nesting success, not obeying Maine’s no-wake laws can lead to collisions with loons and wakes that wash eggs out of nests, and loons can be poisoned and entangled in discarded fishing gear. There are many ways you can join the growing group of volunteers who are reaching out to lake users about loons and spreading the word about best practices in the presence of loons.   

Interested in being a part of the Look Out for Loons program? See the upcoming events to learn more about informational sessions and training opportunities or email for more information. Check out the Look Out for Loons website here.    

  • Find out if your lake or a nesting area is a good fit for one of our nesting signs. Download and read this flyer, or email to be sure your situation meets the state’s criteria for allowing a loon nesting sign. 
  • Read this brochure for a guide to loon behavior: How Close is Too Close: An Overview of Loon Stress Behaviors

  • We also have more general Look Out for Loons signs that can be placed at lake access points and boat launches. (Note that our Look Out for Loons! signs cannot be placed at state boat launches.) 
  • If you find an injured, distressed, dead loon, or abandoned nest, click here for more information. 
Maine Audubon leads the effort while partnering with Maine Lakes, Lakes Environmental Association, and the Penobscot Nation. The project is implemented in collaboration with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. In addition, Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, Vermont Center for Ecostudies, Loon Preservation Committee, and Biodiversity Research Institute received grants and are working on projects of their own. Maine LakesLakes Environmental AssocationPenobscot Nation
In addition, we would like to thank the following organizations and groups for their support and assistance: Somes-Meynell Wildlife Sanctuary – raft design and conducted staff training programs. Robinson Raft – Many hours of time and energy in teaching about, organizing, and coordinating the modular rafts for the project Gnome Landscaping – Donation of landscape cloth Garbage to Garden – Generous donation of 200lbs of compost Kittery Trading Post – Discount on canoe purchase and top supporter of our Fish Lead Free tackle exchange program. KTP has held events resulting in over 200 lbs. of lead tackle turned in and out of Maine’s waters! Loon Preservation Committee & Vermont Center for Ecostudies, and Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation – photos, information, and guidance