How Long Can a Loon Hold its Breath?

New Hampshire Loon

Just how long can a loon hold its breath under water? Longer than I thought, that’s for sure!

The legend of the underwater loon goes like this. I was sitting on the dock enjoying the view at the end of a long day of fishing, catching salamanders, and swimming when a loon popped up out of nowhere barely twenty feet from me. I have no idea where it came from, nor did it answer when I asked.  I whipped out my phone and snapped a blurry picture just before it dove back underwater to hang with the moose.

My wife was inside reading a book and I sent her a text with a picture to prove why I wasn’t catching any fish.  Undoubtedly, the loon was hanging around my bobber eating all of the fish just before they took my bait. I can’t think of any other explanation for not catching any fish. Here now is a minute by minute breakdown of this loon’s Olympic size ability to hold its breath.

8:10 p.m. – The loon pops up out of nowhere, swims for about ten feet, and dives back under water.

8:11 p.m. – I send a text message to my wife with the picture of the loon. No response.

8:12 p.m. – I move my bobber two feet closer out of boredom.

8:13 p.m. – I reel in my line and cast two feet further out.

8:14 p.m. – I begin wondering where the loon is.

8:15 p.m. –I send a text message to my wife that reads, “It’s still underwater.” No response.

8:16 p.m. – I start to grow curious as to how long loons can hold their breath and begin watching intently for it to resurface.

8:17 p.m. – I text my wife again, partly to let her know about the loon and partly because I knew she was trying to read and I wanted to annoy her. “Still under,” I say. No response.

8:18 p.m. – I do a Google search on my phone to see how long loons can hold their breath.

Loon Breath

8:19 p.m. – My wife finally responds to all of my texts with, “Hmm.”

8:20 p.m. – I realize the loon has entered the “extreme” length of time as noted on the Google search result. My heart rate starts to increase out of excitement.

8:21 p.m. – My eyes are focused on the water with a determination unlike I’ve ever experienced.

8:22 p.m. – My eyes are focused on the water with a determination like I’ve only experienced a minute before.

8:23 p.m. – My eyes are focused on the water with a determination like I’ve only experienced a minute before.

8:24 p.m. – I text my wife again, “Where he heck is the loon!?”

8:25 p.m. – She texts back, “he heck” – a poor attempt at giving me grief for the typo in the text. It also signifies to me that she cares not that loon history is about to be made.

8:26 p.m. – Flashbacks of Ace Ventura shouting, “ISN”T THIS INCREDIBLE?! IT’S GOING TO BE SOME KIND OF A RECORD!!” I can see the slinky in my mind.

[hana-code-insert name=’Ace Ventura Record’ /]

8:27 p.m. – My bobber has not moved, but I am more excited than ever.

8:28 p.m. – I climb up a few steps to gain a better vantage point of the pond so I don’t miss the very moment the loon resurfaces to gasp for a breath.

8:29 p.m. – Pure elation turns to concern as I fear the loon has drowned.

8:30 p.m. – Death is a sure thing.

8:31 p.m. – I reel in my bobber for the night. The bait is untouched and the fish are stupid.

8:32 p.m. – All hope for survival is lost and I give up waiting.

8:33 p.m. – I walk through the door and my wife says, “Hey, I just heard the loon.” I race outside and spot it off in the distance on the glassy surface of the water. A Google earth measurement says it resurfaced approximately 300 yards from where it submerged in front of me. The record is smashed and pandemonium reigns. A legend is born.

“Isn’t this incredible?!” I shout to my wife.”It’s been twenty-three minutes!”

“Yes,” she says, barely glancing up from her book. “Are you ready to finish watching the movie we started last night?” Amazing life experiences like this one do not rank as high in her book as they do in mine, but in her defense the movie we paused the night before was good, so the question was valid.

“You bet.”


Tim FaceWell, there you have it. A record has been set. What was the loon doing under water for that amount of time I wonder?

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7 years ago

But how deep can they dive? I read someplace that moose can dive to 16 feet (which I would have to see to believe), and that a loon can dive beyond 200 feet (but not if the water is only 150 feet deep). Speaking of deep, I think I’ll put my boots on……..