Migratory Birds of the Great Lakes University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute
 about habitat birds + science 20 birds
aerialist raptors
copyright UW Sea Grant, writer: L. Wiland, design: T. Yao contact us credits

Common Loon, Gavia immer

The sight and sound of the Common Loon, more than any other bird, evokes the spirit of tall forests and clear lakes of northern regions. This bird has long captured the imagination of many northern cultures: The word "loon" probably comes from an old Scandinavian word, lom, meaning an awkward person, and referring to the loon’s difficulty walking on land. The Ojibwa Indians called the loon "mang" or "the most handsome of birds." They thought the loon’s haunting cry was an omen of death.

In some native legends the loon is a bird of magical powers, in others a messenger or a symbol of power. Loons also are common in the art and tradition of the Inuit, who have more than 30 names for this bird. To many people, the loon’s loud, wailing call is the "song of the North Woods."

ML Reeb writer: Laurence Wiland design: T. Yao