Common Loon: Artiste of the Water

For more than 25 million years, the common loon has been a master of lake living, performing haunting songs, artful dives, and impressive dances

By Brian M. Collins
Published: December 16, 2011
THE PENGUIN DANCE – Running in place on top of the water is hard work! A loon will only bust this move during courtship or times of great distress.
Photo by Brian M. Collins

As the sun sets, my favorite northern lake becomes smooth and glassy. Tall balsam firs cast perfect reflections onto still water. All is calm as I sit on a rock at the lake’s edge, coveting a cup of tea in the slight chill. In an instant, a lone loon calls out with a long, perfect triplet wail. The sound carries across the lake, echoes from rock to rock and fills my world with a resonating, ancient music that reaches deep into my heart. There is an uncommon splendor to Gavia immer, the common loon. Loons have remained more or less unchanged for more than 25 million years. Despite our wealth of insight into their lives, they are still a constant source of mystery and wonder, and their haunting sounds place us fully into our wild lake experience.

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