Monday, November 14, 2011

Episode 88 (November 14, 2011): Loons

Click to listen to episode (2:05).

Please see below (after the transcript and show notes) for links to news and upcoming events.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of November 14, 2011.

This week we feature another mystery sound.  Have a listen for about 20 seconds, and see if you can identify what’s making the various high-pitched calls, which may sound like a yodel, hoot, or wail.


If you guessed a loon, you’re right!  The distinctive calls of loons are associated with lakes and other water bodies in Canada and the northern United States, where five species of loons breed.  But Virginia’s coastal areas provide winter homes for two species, the Common Loon and Red-Throated Loon.  Unfortunately for Virginians, however, these birds [typically] do not make their calls in winter.  Loons are known for their swimming and diving abilities, and they typically go on land only during breeding.  The Common Loon, as its name implies, is well-known as a symbol of wildlife and wilderness, and the species has been extensively studied as an indicator of water quality, including particularly the effects of mercury and acid rain.  Thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and to Lang Elliott of NatureSound Studio for this week’s sounds.

For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


The loon sounds were taken from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sound Clips Web site at, and from “Common Loon” on the Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs-Eastern Region CD set, by Lang Elliott with Donald and Lillian Stokes (Time Warner Audio Books, copyright 1997), used with permission of Lang Elliott and NatureSound Studio (online at   The Fish and Wildlife Service loon recording was previously included in Virginia Water Radio Episode 32 (week of September 6, 2010).

Information on loons was taken from A Guide to Field Identification of Birds of North America, by Chandler S. Robbins et al., St. Martin’s Press, 2001 edition; from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ Fish and Wildlife Information Service Web site at; from Cornell University Lab of Ornithology’s “All About Birds” Web site at; and from the Cornell Ornithology Lab’s “Birds of North America Online” Web site at (subscription needed for this Web site).

Added note 1/8/15: For more on the two loon species (Common and Red-throated) that winter Chesapeake Bay area, see “Chesapeake’s winter visitors include a couple of loons,’ by Kathy Reshetiloff, in the December 2014 issue of Bay Journal, available online at

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