We spotted this young Common Loon in front of our house. The loon was sitting in the middle of the road and when approached would fly, very low to the ground about 30 feet then land again. We live up in a West Virginia holler or rural route outside of Charleston, WV., Kanawha County miles away from any substantial body of water. At the time, when didn't know it was a loon but, it looked like it was having trouble walking and we decided to catch it to see if it was injured. The Loon had webbed feet, a very pointed bill and the neck was long like a Swan or Crane. Obviously, it wasn't an adult bird but, it wasn't a chick or baby either. I searched the Web looking for WV waterfowl pictures of ducks, geese and cranes but, they all had roundish bills unlike the bird we had. I found the site Birds Of West Virginia and was surprised that the Common Loon although, only occasionally seen, is present in West Virginia. There were similarities to a lot of the Loon pictures we found but, none that matched this young bird. But, because of the pointed beak and his difficulty walking we determined it had to be one. Loons apparently, spend 90% of their lives on water and their legs and bodies are not designed for walking on land. The common loon can use up to a quarter mile of waterway to get enough lift for flight.
The Loon was found on Sunday so, naturally, no state organizations or Vets are available to call. We didn't know what to do with him. If released, did he miss his migration? Would he continue on his migratory path alone? Could he survive a winter in Charleston WV? We didn't have the answers. We made the Loon as comfortable as possible in a very big cage and gave him some minnows and a Crawdaddy out of our creek in a water bowl. He had more fun knocking every minnow out of the water than eating them. Monday, we sent some pictures to a local Vet that verified it to be a Common Loon, fully feathered and mature enough to release on a large body of water. I called the Department of Natural Resources and WV Partners in Flight and they also said to release him on a large body of water and he would be fine.
The Kanawha river seemed like the natural choice for us and was only a couple miles away. The video below shows the release. He was definitely in his element and looked thrilled to be back in water.