MANKATO, Minn. (AP) - It may sound loony, but southern Minnesota needs a hand in providing a home for the state's official bird.

Reports say nine more loon chicks will be released at Fish Lake near Mankato by the end of fall.

It's the midpoint in a three-year effort to reintroduce the common loon in hopes they'll return to southern Minnesota.

The population of Minnesota's state bird is stable at an estimated 4,800 breeding pairs but their numbers are weaker in southern Minnesota. Maine-based Biodiversity Research Institute's is leading the recovery effort.

Loon chicks were taken from the northern lakes where they hatched and brought to Fish Lake. Researchers believe the chicks won't return to their birth lakes.

The project aims to transplant up to 25 chicks total.