Creature Feature

Creature Feature – Loony Tunes

Posted by  //  May 4, 2021  //  Articles, Creature Feature


Common loons are iconic of northern wilderness lakes where their haunting calls stir something primordial within us.  Researchers have discovered that their different vocalizations communicate lots of information to other loons.  

The “yodel” call is exclusive to male loons.  It starts with a drawn out introductory phrase followed by repeated, undulating syllables.  Yodels mostly occur when a male is in a tense confrontation with an intruder or when a potential challenger flies overhead.  Each yodel is unique and relays detailed information to other loons including identity, body condition and a willingness to fight.  A male with heavier body mass signals his robustness through a lower frequency yodel.  As he ages and loses body mass, his yodel rises in pitch.  Yodels with several repeated syllables reflect a higher state of aggression.  

The “tremolo” is given by both male and female loons.  It sounds like maniacal laughter but is actually an alarm call.  Loons tremolo when something threatens their chicks.  This call is also given in flight or to announce a loon’s arrival on a lake.

The eerie, wolf-like “wail” is exchanged between mates to stay in contact or to help locate a lost chick.  

Lastly, loons use a short “hoot” to keep in touch with each other and their young or in greeting as they rejoin company from different locations on the lake.  Hoots also communicate contentment and calm.  

Article & photo by Margie Manthey

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