The Common Loon: What Are They Saying?
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.