Cape May Point Loon Spectacle

One of the spectacles of the natural world takes place in early spring at Cape May Point.

Dozens, hundreds, or maybe even a thousand migrant Red-throated Loons commence staging in the waters off Cape May Point as a precursor to their flight back to nesting ponds in the far north.

Unlike Common Loons, the species whose voice we hear so frequently in movies, Red-throated Loons nest farther north and seem to be more social.

Migrating loons arriving in Cape May

From mid-late February through March, depending on the weather, migrants arrive in Cape May where they feed almost constantly before reinitiating their northward migration.

They look like irregular lines in the water, facing into the tide and floating backward. As they do so, they dive in search of small fish and the occasional crab in the Rips near the Point. How they swallow the crabs is a mystery.

Where to see loons

The spectacle can be best be seen from the Concrete Ship, Cape May Point jetties, and the Cape May Point State Park.

On an outgoing tide, they drift from Delaware Bay into the ocean around Cape May Point.

When they float far enough in their drift, they get up and fly in a loose, conga line back into the Bay, where they start the process all over again.

Dozens of birds can be in one of these lines and there are other lines farther out. On an incoming tide, they drift into the Bay.

Some birds come in so close to the jetties that you can literally see their eyes and on a calm day you can sometimes hear their plaintiff yodeling; a weaker version of the Common Loon song.

If you're in Cape May in March, make sure to stop at the Point to see these harbingers of Spring.

 

 
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