We examined the behavior of common loons, Gavia immer (Brünnich), breeding on small, shallow lakes in central Alberta, Canada that were naturally fishless or contained only small-bodied fishes (minnow lake). For both lake types, adults spent >90% of their time on the nesting lake and >50% of their time foraging. Adult loons on fishless lakes dove more frequently, but dives were of shorter duration than loons on lakes with fish. On two intensively studied fishless lakes, adults fed chicks macroinvertebrates, particularly leeches, whereas on a focal minnow lake, fish made up >70% of prey items delivered by adults. Chicks >36 days of age on a minnow lake spent >50% of their time foraging, whereas older chicks on fishless lakes were highly dependent on food provisioning by adults. Models based on observed foraging patterns indicated that prey size was a better predictor of success in meeting energetic requirements than was feeding behavior (e.g., dive rate, dive success). For most models, estimated energetic intake was higher for loons on minnow lakes than on fishless lakes. Our behavioral observations and model results are consistent with surveys in central Alberta that indicate that breeding Common Loons frequently establish territories on small lakes, but that chicks hatched on lakes completely lacking fish rarely fledge and only if sufficient large invertebrates such as leeches are available.