Yo! Yodel Studies By Jay Magers


Jay Magers is a Cornell University graduate student researching communication among loons. Thanks, Jay, for sharing your exciting research with us!

Tune in for some loon music! The yodel is the territorial vocalization of the male loon. Jay Magers is becoming an expert on yodels. He believes that a loon's yodel can tell a lot about the bird. One thing he's been wondering is, does a loon change the pitch of his yodel to communicate something about his health or body condition or size? Jay hopes to fiind the answer.

So far, these are some things Jay has learned about loon yodels:

  • Larger birds usually give lower pitched yodels. Jay will keep banding loons and recording yodels to make sure he's right about this.
  • An individual loon can vary its yodel. The male can choose how many repeat syllables he adds to his yodel.

Jay is hoping to show whether or not frequency and these pitch components are important in communicating something about the male's fighting ability. Now YOU be the scientist. Jay prepared the following sonagrams from loon yodels he recorded in his research. Now he has these fun challenges for you!

Try This! Be a Yodel Detective

Question 1: Which of these two yodels is probably made by a larger bird? Why do you think so?

This call is by a loon on Hemlock Lake. Listen to the Hemlock Lake Loon (mp3 file)

This yodel is by a loon on Flannery Lake. Listen to the Flannery Lake Loon (mp3 file)

These sonagrams, produced by Jay Magers, are pictures of the sound of two loon yodels. They show the frequency (how high- or low-pitched a sound is) on the X-axis, and time in seconds on the Y-axis. The higher-pitched a sound is, the higher the lines on the sonagram.

Question 2: Listen to these three yodels. Look and listen for changes in pitch during the yodels. Do these yodels come from more than one bird? How many birds?

Listen to Loon 1

Listen to Loon 2

Listen to Loon 3

Question 3: Listen to and look at these three yodels. Which is given by a different individual?

Listen to Loon 1

Listen to Loon 2

Listen to Loon 3

Question 4: Now the big challenge. Can you match each of these yodel sounds (Loon 1 - 4) to their sonograms (Loon A - D)?

Mystery Loon 1
mp3 file

Mystery Loon 2
mp3 file

Mystery Loon 3
mp3 file

Mystery Loon 4
mp3 file

Loon A

Loon B

Loon C

Loon D

Try This! Journaling Question: Female loons don't yodel, but they DO try to drive other females off territories. What are some ways females might signal their fighting ability?