Outdoors Journal: Listening to loons

  • Article by: JIM GILBERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 4, 2009 - 10:27 PM

Common loon calls are captivating and memory-stirring for those of us who have spent time among the pines, firs, birches, and crystal waters of the north. What would our central and northern Minnesota lakes be without the 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," frequently is used and helps the pair keep in contact with each other. This call often is heard at night and is considered the mournful cry of the wilderness.

The tremolo-call, a wild laugh, probably is the loon's all purpose call and can signal alarm, worry or greeting. Usually the tremolo is coupled with a behavioral response such as a dive, a run on the water surface or a take off, 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. Loon pairs frequently use a tremolo duet when something threatens their young.

 

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