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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Loony for Loons

While kayaking on Bear Head Lake we saw a quintet of red breasted mergansers every time we went out.  They were very quiet, and the website All About Birds says they are silent except in courtship when male makes a cat-like "yeow, yeow." Female makes a harsh "gruk." The ones I got the picture of must be either a female with juvenilles or all junvenilles according to their markings.

Wayne couldn't believe I hadn't ever seen a Common Loon before, but I saw plenty before we left Minnesota!  They let us get pretty close in the kayak, but kept a wary eye on us.  When they dove for fish we had no idea where they would pop back up and we were impressed with their swimming, but also with their speedy flight ability.  When we were gliding alongside a momma and her chick we heard the chick making a soft wheezing hoot. 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 best part of all the loon watching for me was when we were kayaking back in at sunset and their spooky calls echoed across the lake.  Among these calls 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.  I love learning about new animals when we travel, and though the Common Loon may be something a lot of people take for granted it was a special treat for me to finally make its acquaintance!


  1. When I saw your title and first picture, I thought you thought the mergansers were loons. I should have known better. :)

    1. Funny! I try to do my research, but I'm not the wildlife expert you are...yet!