How the Call of the Common Loon is Erroneously Used in Movies and Television Shows

Vox producer Marie Cascione takes a look at the ubiquitous but often erroneously placed call of the common loon as it is used in movies and television shows. The distinctive call of the loon is rather melodious and almost humanlike, which makes it perfect to set certain moods, but is truly out of place outside of the loon’s natural habitat of the northern United States and Canada.

If you’ve seen any remotely creepy movie, you’ve heard a loon wail: that mournful, nearly human ooo-ooo-oooo. It pops up whenever a movie needs to convey melancholy or trepidation, often accompanied by a full moon or some fog. But for the most part, loons have no business being in the background of those scenes.

Cascione spoke with Terry Sohl, an expert in aviary species. Sohl agreed with the premise that the loon call had no business being in certain scenes, no matter how dramatic they were.

It’s one thing to use the wrong bird call as a background noise it’s another to actually show a picture of the bird and use a wrong call. And even if those were loons that movie takes place in Japan. Which, is at least on planet Earth. “Unlike Avengers: Infinity War.” The big baddie, Thanos, he returns to his home planet. And so they pan to an overview of the planet and the first noise you hear is a common loon. It just ruined the moment.

Cascione also asked musician friends to plot the call musically. What they found was not only very interesting but explains why it’s so appealing to the human ear.

So it starts in a major and ends in a minor which is extremely funky. And the loon doesn’t just jump from note to note like a lot of chirpy birds. Instead, the notes sort of slide into each other …you’ll also hear in blues and soul music. Singers like BB King and Muddy Waters and songs like “Feelin’ Good” by Nina Simone.

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