Loons stranded in Wis. after being grounded by storms

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Loons across northern Wisconsin that were grounded in late-spring snowstorms are struggling and unable to take off, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

In some cases, the iconic bird of northwoods lakes fell with icy wings from the sky onto roads, farm fields and other hard surfaces.

That's a serious problem for the loons because they can't take off from land – they need as much as one-quarter mile of water for a take-off, Erica LeMoine, LoonWatch Program Coordinator at the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute in Ashland, Wis., told MPR.

LeMoine said the emergency groundings leave the birds prone to starvation.

"They're really desperate," LeMoine said. "They're trying to get to a place where they can rest until they can get to the lake they want to get to."

The late ice-out of many lakes across northern Wisconsin is also causing a migrating-loon bottleneck as the birds crowd on lakes in southern Wisconsin, awaiting ice-out on home lakes further north, in Canada and elsewhere, she said.

Marge Gibson, director of the Raptor Education Group in Antigo, Wis., said her rehabilitation center has rescued 51 loons in the past two weeks, the most ever, the News Tribune reported.

In Minnesota, grebes, a smaller water bird, also have been crashing on land where they can't take off or walk, the newspaper said.

“We have reports of them just dropping out of the sky into cow pastures or trying to land on wet roadways that must look like water to them,” Gibson said.

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