Dad’s Distinctive Voice

May 19, 2023

I first noticed it last year, as did many of the regulars on chat. The Cam 1 male has his own peculiar accent. There is a hoarseness to it and he has trouble with the higher notes. His wails tend to be truncated and, when he yodels, the octave jump is a hurdle he can barely manage.

There is one glaringly likely reason for this speech impediment. When loons are fighting over a territory – and Dad has had plenty of one-on-one knock-down-dragouts in his life – a popular tactic is to grab your opponent’s neck with your bill and drag his head underwater. So I’m putting my money on an old war injury that didn’t completely heal.

But his injury doesn’t seem to affect him much, even though loons use inflection to judge an opponent’s demeanor and fitness (check out Jay Mager’s work on loon vocalizations). He has a number of tricks up his sleeve to let other loons know he means business, including some great body postures. He proved that last year when intruders showed up right at hatch time. The fact that both chicks hatched and survived to the end of the season is a testament to his fitness.

And for us, it’s a blessing. We can often identify him when he’s across the lake, with no chance of a band reading.