Love hurts, at least if you’re a lonely old loon. ABJ and Fe are a pair of Common Loons from Michigan whose love story has become famous. At 36 and 37 years old respectively, the two are considered to be the oldest Common Loons in the world. What’s more, their 25 year relationship is one of the longest ever recorded. For 25 years, ABJ and Fe occupied “F Pool” at Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Michigan. Their incredible run came to an end in May of 2022 when, after the pair was ousted from their nesting spot by a younger Common Loon pair, ABJ and Fe split up. Within the same season, Fe was spotted seemingly preparing to nest with another male loon, signifying the end of an era.
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It was speculated by researchers at the time that the upset of the other loon pair contributed to their break up. Another possible factor was the fact that ABJ and Fe had slowly begun failing to produce successful nests. In 2022, their most recent chick had been as far back as 2020. In any case, when Fe began investigating nest sites with other males, it was assumed that the relationship was over for good.
This was, as it turns out, not true. In April of 2023, ABJ and Fe were spotted together once again. What’s more, the love birds were seen swimming in “F Pool,” their old haunt for the past two-and-a-half decades. It seemed, at the time, that the oldest Common Loon couple in the world had rekindled some of that old magic.
Like the star-crossed lovers they are, though, ABJ and Fe had not yet escaped the drama and passion of a tumultuous relationship. Not long after their reunion, researchers spotted ABJ swimming alone in “H Pool.” Fe was not with him and he was injured. The geriatric Common Loon was found with a portion of his upper bill missing. This type of injury is seen sometimes in male loons as a result of competitive disputes over females. Aggressive males will grab each other by the neck with their bills, flipping their rival underwater where they may either exhaust or sometimes even drown their opponent. It has been posited by researchers that ABJ lost the tip of his bill while performing one of these maneuvers.
Several male loons form Seney National Wildlife Refuge have sustained this type of injury and have managed to make full recoveries. So long as ABJ is able to eat normally, his chances are not too bad, although there are never any guarantees in nature. What this does mean for poor ABJ is that the amorous loon will spend another year as a bachelor. Whether he and Fe might reconcile next year remains to be seen.