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Common Loon

Gavia immer ORDER: GAVIIFORMES FAMILY: GAVIIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The eerie calls of Common Loons echo across clear lakes of the northern wilderness. Summer adults are regally patterned in black and white. In winter, they are plain gray above and white below, and you’ll find them close to shore on most seacoasts and a good many inland reservoirs and lakes. Common Loons are powerful, agile divers that catch small fish in fast underwater chases. They are less suited to land, and typically come ashore only to nest.

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Calls

Common Loons are famous for their eerie, beautiful calls. Among these are the tremolo, a wavering call given when a loon is alarmed or to announce its presence at a lake. The yodel is the male loon’s territorial claim. Each male has his own signature yodel. If a male moves to a different territory, he will change his yodel. The wail is the haunting call that loons give back and forth to figure out each other’s location. 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.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Find This Bird

On a North Woods lake in summer, loons stick out conspicuously as large, tuxedoed birds swimming about in the middle of the lake. They can be very vocal and easy to locate, as the yodeling of one loon will often elicit a chorus response from other loons in the area. In winter, loons adopt a much quieter profile along coastal waters, wearing drab, gray plumage. They typically stay close to shore, though, so a scan out to sea with your binoculars will often reveal loons hidden among the waves.

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Spirit of the North: an intimate portrait of the Common Loon. Story and photos in Living Bird magazine.