Jim Gilbert's Nature Notes: Listening to loons

  • Article by: JIM GILBERT , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 12, 2014 - 2:31 PM

Calls of the common loon are captivating and memory stirring. What would our northern and central Minnesota lakes be without this mournful cry and laughter of the wilderness? To appreciate loon calls you simply have to hear them in their natural setting. And as we listen, the variations of yodel, tremolo, wail, and other calls can tell us much about loon behavior.

The yodel-call, “oo-AH-ho,” is used for territory advertisement and defense. It is given only by the male. The far-carrying wail-call, “ahaa-ooo-oooo-oooo-ooo-ahhh,” is frequently used and helps the pair keep in contact with each other. This call is often heard at night and is considered the mournful cry of the wilderness.

The tremolo-call, a wild laugh, is probably the loon’s all-purpose call and can signal alarm, worry or greeting. Usually the tremolo is coupled with a behavior response such as a dive, a run on the water surface or a takeoff, and it’s the only call loons can give while in flight. The presence of people often evokes the tremolo, especially when boaters approach too closely. But we must remember, the tremolo isn’t reserved just for intruding humans. Millions of years before people appeared the tremolo-call echoed across ancient lakes. Loon pairs frequently use a tremolo duet when something threatens their young. This splendid tremolo duet is also used in spring to reinforce pair bonds and to advertise territorial rights.

Jim Gilbert’s Nature Notes are heard on WCCO Radio at 7:15 a.m. Sundays. His observations have been part of the Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendars since 1977, and he is the author of five books on nature in Minnesota. He taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.


St. Louis 2
Pittsburgh 4 FINAL
Atlanta 2
Miami 7 FINAL
Washington 11
Detroit 4 FINAL
Philadelphia 4
Minnesota 6 FINAL
Baltimore 5
NY Yankees 7 FINAL
Houston 0
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Boston 3
Baltimore 4 FINAL
Toronto 2
Cincinnati 8 FINAL
LA Angels 6
Chicago Cubs 7 FINAL
Kansas City 0
Los Angeles 9 FINAL
San Francisco 11
Chicago WSox 4 FINAL
Cleveland 1
Milwaukee 0 FINAL
Oakland 7
Seattle 5 FINAL
San Diego 8
Texas 5 FINAL
Los Angeles 10
Colorado 11 FINAL
Arizona 10
Arizona 1 FINAL
Colorado 2
Houston 99 FINAL
Washington 91
LA Lakers 99 FINAL
Brooklyn 107
Minnesota 88 FINAL
New Orleans 110
Philadelphia 86 FINAL
Cleveland 87
Detroit 102 FINAL
Miami 109
LA Clippers 119 FINAL
Boston 106
Dallas 88 4th Qtr 6:00
Indiana 89
Memphis 89 FINAL
San Antonio 103
Oklahoma City 5 1st Qtr 10:14
Phoenix 7
Washington 5 FINAL
NY Rangers 2
Calgary 5 FINAL
Nashville 2
Boston 2 FINAL(OT)
Carolina 1
Detroit 4 FINAL
NY Islanders 5
Florida 4 FINAL
Ottawa 2
Anaheim 2 3rd Prd 8:47
New Jersey 0
Chicago 2 3rd Prd
Winnipeg 3
San Jose 2 2nd Prd :20
Pittsburgh 2
Michigan State 76 FINAL
Louisville 70
Gonzaga 52 FINAL
Duke 66
Philadelphia 0 FINAL
Chicago 1
Toronto FC 1 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 2
(7) Florida State 74 FINAL
(3) South Carolina 80
Villanova 70 FINAL
West Virginia 75
Michigan 69 FINAL
Southern Miss 60
Temple 69 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 57
Siena 50 FINAL
Louisiana 52
St Marys-CA 66 FINAL
(5) Baylor 33 1st Half 3:25
(2) Notre Dame 33
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question