The Common Loon: What are they saying?

Valerie Assinewe, Professional Writing Program Intern

Valerie Assinewe, Professional Writing Program Intern

Nothing is quite so symbolic of summertime in the Canadian wild as the calls of the Common Loon. They make four basic types of vocalizations: the wail, tremolo, yodel, and hoot. In winter, along coastal waters they adopt a quiet time.



The wail is perhaps the call most frequently heard. A loon will make this haunting call when it becomes separated from the chick or if its mate fails to return. It indicates a willingness to interact.

The tremolo
is an aggressive response given when disturbed by a boater or predator. The tremolo signals distress and may urge loons to move to safety. This wavering call also announces its presence at a lake.

The yodel is also an expression of aggression and is given by the male during a confrontation. The yodel is used in territorial disputes, essentially stating to any loons close by – “This is our territory!” Each male has his own signature yodel. If a male moves to a different territory, he will change his yodel.

The hoot
symbolizes a call of curiosity and/or happiness. Hoots are soft, short calls given to keep in contact with each other: parents might hoot to a chick, or one mate might hoot to another.


The sounds are apparently a learned communication between the birds. To hear the richness of their harmonics is clearly a unique experience.image_column Glenn Barley


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