The common loon (Gavia immer) breeds during the summer on northern lakes and water bodies that are also often desirable areas for aquatic recreation and human habitation. In northern New England, we assessed how the spatial nature of disturbance affects common loon nest site selection and territory success. We found through classification and regression analysis that distance to and density of disturbance factors can be used to classify observed nest site locations versus random points, suggesting that these factors affect loon nest site selection (model 1: Correct classification = 75%, null = 50%, K = 0.507, P < 0.001; model 2: Correct classification = 78%, null = 50%, K = 0.551, P < 0.001). However, in an exploratory analysis, we were unable to show a relation between spatial disturbance variables and breeding success (P = 0.595, R2 = 0.436), possibly because breeding success was so low during the breeding seasons of 2007–2008. We suggest that by selecting nest site locations that avoid disturbance factors, loons thereby limit the effect that disturbance will have on their breeding success. Still, disturbance may force loons to use sub-optimal nesting habitat, limiting the available number of territories, and overall productivity. We advise that management efforts focus on limiting disturbance factors to allow breeding pairs access to the best nesting territories, relieving disturbance pressures that may force sub-optimal nest placement.
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Vol. 75 • No. 2