What Do Those Loon Calls Mean?

This article was submitted by Mary Lou M.:

I always think of how privileged we are to have families of loons on Caribou Lake. I love to watch them and listen to their melodic calls.  I thought folks might be interested to know about the four basic adult loon calls: wail, tremolo, yodel and hoot.
The wail resembles a wolf howl. Individuals use this call to locate their mates and chicks.
The tremolo sounds like a quavering laugh. It is typically used when loons are disturbed. It is the only call loons give while flying.
The yodel is a sustained call made up of several repetitions of a three-syllable squeal. It is an aggressive call usually given in territorial confrontations by male loons. Each male has an individual identifiable yodel. Only male loons yodel.
The hoot is a soft, one-note call loons use in close quarters. Most people never hear this call.
Chicks give a high-pitched call that sounds like “a wheet-wheet-wheet.” It is generally reserved for begging for food from their parents.

Visit the LoonWatch website for more information about our loons.

1 thought on “What Do Those Loon Calls Mean?

  1. Thank you!! Nice to know what the calls mean, since those sounds are so near and dear to our hearts!! I think many of us run to the ends of our docks when we hear the distress call, wondering who or what is messing with “our” loons!!!
    Will never forget the year our loons successfully raised 2 chicks. While paddling my kayak one morning, the water smooth as glass, I happened upon them. Mom and Dad were both off somewhere. The babies were pretty good sized–juveniles, but not yet diving. They stayed put as I paddled closer. As I got within 20 feet or so they laid flat on the water like they were trying to blend in with the surface. Though I know they were nervous, it looked quite humorous–two VERY flat loons. I snapped a couple of pictures (not very good ones) and then backed off. Mom (or Dad) flew in as I watched them from a distance, and read me the riot act for getting too close. The juveniles were quickly herded away. An awesome experience! I don’t think they’ve had a successful hatch since. I wonder if it’s due to the increasing number of muskrat in the lake (eating the eggs)?? Does anyone know?

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