Michigan Loon Preservation Association
The call of the Loon is for many people what the Common Loon is all about-it gives us the imagery of wildness preserved, the feeling that we are close to and part of the earth. The Loon's call has been called both soothing and maniacal. What do you think?
The Tremolo call signals alarm or annoyance. Tremolos are frequently given by excited Loons after a disturbance of the nest or chicks; they may attempt to draw intruders away from the chicks by distracting them to the location of the disturbance. Adults give this call especially while dancing nearly upright or running over the water. Tremolos may also be given in association with escape by diving or take off. Tremolo duets are performed by pairs when young are threatened, but also as a territorial proclamation in early spring.
Tremolo Types I, II and III vary in intensity and generally are in order of the birds increasing concern and anxiety. If given in the presence of a human, the Loon is very agitated and should be afforded space-the nest could be left and thus be exposed to predators, or even be abandoned.
Loons also give the Tremolo as the overhead flight call.
The wail is the most frequently identified and favorite call of those that love the Loon. It has also been called the night call, and the storm call. It seems to be, according to Dr. Judy McIntyre, "the loon version of 'come here' and 'here I come' ". Like the tremolo call, there are three different types, referred to as one-note, two-note and three-note.
The Yodel is given exclusively by males. It serves as an aggressive territorial proclamation. It is most frequently given during nesting, and is performed with the male loon's head crouched low over the water. Because it is the males territorial call, it was thought previously that it was unchanging and could therefore be used to identify individual loons from year to year by voice tagging, (audiospectrograph) as has been done with other species. This has been recently discovered to be in error. According to research done by Charles Wolcott, (Dept of Neurobiology & Behavior, Cornell University) at the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, a male loon, recently displaced after an all day contest with an interloping male, has been found to change his Yodel as demonstrated by voice tagging.
The hoot is most likely a contact call; it is a soft, one note sound. It is used to communicate the location of the sending loon. It may be used during social gatherings, or by the adults to call chicks for feeding. Another call, the mew, is used for communication with the chicks as well. The hoot is the call most likely to be used in the winter; though it appears loons could perform any call at any time, they are nearly silent in the winter.