Volunteer LoonWatcher Survey

loon with a baby loon chick on its back

Do you live near a lake or have one you visit regularly? Do you love hearing a loon calling across the water? Then you may be perfect for the Volunteer Loon Watcher Survey, sign up today!


What is the Volunteer Loon Watcher Survey?

The Volunteer Loon Watcher Survey is one of our longest running community science projects. For over 40 years, volunteers have recorded their loon observations on lakes and given us a great insight into loons. And it’s easy to join!

a closeup of a common loon

Who can become a “Loon Watcher”?

We are looking for volunteer “loon watchers” who:

  • Can commit to visiting the same lake at least once per month during the survey season (May-August)
  • Will gather data about loons on the lake
  • Will report their findings to our Volunteer Loon Watcher Survey coordinator at the end of the season

We’re looking for a variety of information about loons, including:

  • Number of adult loons (paired and unpaired) on the lake
  • Number of loon chicks
  • Nesting locations
  • Area of lake surveyed
  • Brief behavioral observations
a loon resting on top of a nest

Your observations provide the Nongame Wildlife Program with data on nesting success, number of loons observed, interesting occurrences and problems that may negatively affect the loons. This will help us better understand loons in Minnesota and guide conservation of our state bird.  


Interested in signing up?

To sign up, please email [email protected]. Please tell us the lake (or lakes) you’re interested in surveying and what county they are located in.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this the same as the Minnesota Loon Monitoring Program?

No. The Minnesota Loon Monitoring Program is a different project. There are a few key differences between the two; the Volunteer Loon Watcher Survey requires more frequent observations, and data can be collected from every lake in Minnesota with loons.

Do I need to live on a lake to participate?
No. We ask volunteers to survey their lake once per month from May-August.

Can multiple people survey the same lake?

Yes! More observers means more information about loons.

Do I need equipment or a boat to survey the lake?

No. We encourage the use of binoculars, but they are not necessary.

How many observations do I have to make?

We ask volunteers to commit to surveying their lake at least once per month from May-August.

How do I limit my disturbance to loons on the lake?

  • View loons from a distance
  • Enjoy their lovely haunting calls
  • Give loons their space. They need solitude to breed and raise their young. Approaching too closely can cause adult loons to leave their nests, causing chilling of the eggs and nest failure.

What should I do if I see someone harassing loons?

Harassment of wildlife is against the law. If you see loons being harassed, report it to your local DNR office. You can find contact information at our office locator webpage.

What should I do if I see a sick or injured loon?

If you see an injured or deceased loon, please contact the Volunteer Loon Watcher Survey coordinator or a nongame wildlife specialist. We have resources on our website for additional information.

Survey resources
More information about common loons

More information about the species

How the MN DNR is helping loons


Your donations to the Nongame Wildlife Program help support this project. For more information about donating, please visit our donation webpage.

Stay in touch with our program by signing up for our quarterly newsletter: 

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