It’s nearing dusk and you’re paddling your kayak across a small pond. The sun is beginning to dip behind the trees and the nearby woods go nearly silent.

Suddenly, the eerie call of a loon echoes across the water, causing you to stop paddling, listen and marvel at the beautiful sound.

Common loons produce a variety of different vocalizations, and they’re not doing it to impress their human visitors. Instead, loons have specific calls for certain situations.

Knowing which call you are hearing and observing their behavior can help you determine whether your presence is potentially posing a threat to the birds.

The folks at the National Loon Center were kind enough to allow us to share this informative video, in which scientist Walter Piper of Chapman University in California explains the many calls made by loons and what they likely mean.

Loons typically use four main types of calls, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

Wails are what loons use to keep in contact with each other. Yodels are made by male loons when they are defending territory. Tremolos are sounded when the birds feel threatened or are trying to defend their chicks. Finally, hoots are intimate calls between two nesting loons or a parent and chicks.

Check out the above video for more detail on loon calls. That way, the next time you encounter one on the water, you can impress your family members and friends with your knowledge.

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Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...