Dr. Jay Mager is an Associate Professor of Biological & Allied Health Sciences at Ohio Northern University where he teaches courses in ecology, ornithology, and animal behavior. Jay has studied loon communication and breeding behavior on breeding lakes in the United States and Canada, but will be investigating differences in loon social behavior and communication during the non-breeding season.
Why Study Loon Vocalizations?
Studying loons as a graduate student, I became quite interested in the mechanisms by which loons select and actively defend breeding territories. Dr. Charles Walcott at Cornell University really helped me explore ideas as to how vocal communication plays into this process. It's quite interesting that, although the loon vocal repertoire is one of the most characteristic features of the northern wilderness, we know very little about what these individuals are saying about themselves and to each other through their fascinating vocal signals. We've only begun to learn about these intriguing calls.
Achievements in the Field
There’s nothing like canoeing a lake as the sun is either rising or setting—it is one of the most serene and peaceful experiences, and it brings me back each year. As a scientist, following individual loons that you've been accustomed to seeing each year as they arrive at a territory, find a mate, nest and incubate a clutch of eggs for 25 to 28 days, hatch chicks, and then raise those chicks for 8 to 10 weeks, and then to watch them all leave, is memorable in itself. The whole process is fascinating to me.