WCS North America

Adirondack Loon Conservation

The Common loon, an icon of the Northern Forest, breeds on the forested lakes of the northeastern US and Canada, including the lakes of the Adirondack Park.  Residents and visitors to the Adirondacks and other northern landscapes look for familiar pairs of these beautiful birds building nests and raising young each summer.  Although they find abundant breeding habitat here, loons in the Adirondacks encounter threats such as fishing line entanglement, toxins such as mercury and lead, shoreline development, and nest disturbance.

WCS uses the Common loon, a fish-eating predator at the top of the aquatic food chain, as a sentinel of mercury pollution in freshwater habitats in New York’s Adirondack Park. Over the past decade, WCS has been studying mercury contamination and other threats in loons to understand their population and inform loon conservation. WCS strives to find innovative solutions to protecting one of the Adirondacks’ most spectacular wildlife species.  The loon’s charismatic nature also inspires engagement in conservation among the public and decision makers.  

Together with partners, WCS has been working since 2001 to understand the status and threats to our regional loon population.


  • Provide clear, objective science in accessible formats to support policy decisions affecting loons.
  • Provide opportunities for public engagement in loon conservation and policy decisions to help protect loons.
  • Determine the impact of mercury contamination on loons and aquatic habitats using long term data on study birds.
  • Reduce the prevalence of lead and other toxins in the aquatic environment.


Lead in the Environment

In New York State, more than 30% of annual loon mortality is due to lead poisoning from fishing gear, such as lead sinkers and jigs left behind in the waterways. To reduce the prevalence of lead in the aquatic ecosystem, WCS sponsors the Lead Sinker Exchange, a program that gives anglers an opportunity to exchange lead fishing sinkers for samples of non-lead sinkers

Mercury in the Environment

In cooperation with BioDiversity Research Institute, WCS works to understand the impact of this pervasive neurotoxin on loon health through long term monitoring of loons’ reproductive success.

Adirondack Loon Census

Held each year on the third Saturday in July, the annual loon census is an opportunity for citizen volunteers to provide valuable information about loons, providing a snapshot of population status and annual trends. Read More >>


Our research has resulted in the largest loon and mercury data base in the Adirondacks. These data are available to inform land use decisions, national and regional mercury policies, and climate change planning.

Latest Publications

All Adirondacks Publications >>

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Adirondack Communities and Conservation Program
Wildlife Conservation Society 132 Bloomingdale Avenue, Suite 2, Saranac Lake, NY, 12983 USA
(518) 891-8872

Partners Include

Biodiversity Research Institute
Adirondack Center For Loon Conservation