The Outside Story

Loon Language Has Four Distinct Calls

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For many northeastern lakeshore residents, Common Loons’ calls hold a special place in the summer soundscape. Their haunting cries, heard most frequently from mid-May through June, are perhaps one of the most fascinating things about loons. They use four distinct calls to communicate with their families and other loons.

Common Loon (Gavia immer) © Susan Elliott licensed under CC-BY-NC

The Mournful “Wail,” an “ooohh ahhhh” is often the sound of loons identifying or calling to each other. It can also signal initial signs of a mild disturbance.

The Laughing “Tremolo,” a trill or series of trills can be a sign of distress, alarm, or, occasionally, excitement.

The Crazy and Wild “Yodel,” is the male territorial call, usually directed at unwelcome loons. Every male has a distinct yodel and uses it to transmit a lot of information, from how big the male is to his level of motivation to defend.

Hoots and Coos: On a quiet evening you can hear the loon family or group of loons in a “social gathering” communicating with each other.

Keep ears perked for loons on bodies of water near you this summer, and be sure to report your sightings to ebird.org/content/vt/

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