Barry Kent MacKayArt by Barry Kent MacKay
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In this section are copies of original works of art. All of them are dedicated to helping us live according to unconditional love and compassion, which is the foundation of our peaceful means of bringing true and lasting peace to all of God's creatures, whether they are human beings or other animals.

Common Loon (Gavia immer)


common loon
(Artwork - 110)
Common Loon (Gavia immer)

Canada has no official national bird and there are several efforts underway to choose one. Top runner in all such efforts is probably the Common Loon. In other parts of the English-speaking world this species is known as the Great Northern Diver. It’s nests in every province and territory of Canada; we have named our one dollar coin, which has an image of the loon on one side, the “loonie”, an affectionate if not altogether complimentary term since the strangely resonating often mournful, often maniacal calls of the loon have given rise to the expression “as crazy as a loon.”

They are emblematic of the wild places of Canada and the northern U.S. and often one hears their calls in the backgrounds of movies and TV dramas to indicate “wilderness” or loneliness, sometimes in places where no loon would ever appear, such as distant jungles or deserts.
I’ve shown an adult (sexes are identical and both will incubate the eggs and attend the young) with two chicks, the usual number. Nests are platforms of vegetation piled up at the edge of the water, often hidden under willows or alders. Thus they are vulnerable to the wakes of high speed motorboats.

The beautiful checkerboard pattern of the adult is replaced, in the fall, with a grey winter plumage, with a grey head and white throat and belly, very similar to the first adult plumage of the youngsters.

Loons are consummate fish-eaters, with waterproof plumage, and webbed feet placed far back on their bodies, making them very awkward on land, and they really only normally come to shore to nest, or if they are sick. They are vulnerable to botulism, a disease that can kill large numbers of waterbirds, and to entanglements with fishing line, and to lead poisoning from the lead weights on fishing line that has broken loose when large fish escape sport anglers. They are also sometimes caught and drowned in fishing nets, and although they are a protected species, some fishermen see them as competitors and persecute them.

Overfishing by humans can also have a negative impact on loon survival, but in balance they are such a well-loved bird that there is a great deal of effort put into protecting them, and monitoring their numbers.

They winter along more southern shores, especially coastlines, and are commonly seen in the Gulf of Mexico, along the U.S. Atlantic seaboard and off the west coast.

This painting is in acrylics on compressed hardboard, is nearly life-size and is 24 X 30 in size. The background shows one of my favourite plants to sketch and paint, the Fragrant Waterlily (Nymphaea odorata).

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Copyright © Barry Kent MacKay
Barry describes himself as a Canadian artist/writer/naturalist.
See his website: http://barrykentmackay.ca/

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