the creepy bird call that sounds like a wolf you’ve heard in every horror movie

The story of the Common Loon, Hollywood’s most famous (and mysterious) bird

While watching the original Friday the 13th movie in the office one day (probably a Friday the 13th), we noticed a bird call, one that you’ve probably heard before if you’ve ever watched a movie. At first, we thought it was a wolf howling, but after a closer listen it appeared to be some sort of bird. We were intrigued and determined to find out what animal made the wailing call.

A quick google search yielded no meaningful results, and despite having a couple of bird watchers on our team, between us we only knew what 20 or so birds it was not. So, we had to go deeper. One free subscription to Merlin Bird ID, a kind of “Shazam for bird calls” app created by Cornell University, later and we found our culprit: the Common Loon, a waterfowl native to North America that resembles a duck but with a sharper bill.

Upon more research on the Common Loon, it came to our attention that the loon calls used frequently in movies and TV shows is usually inaccurate. The call tends to set a scene of wilderness and or suspense, perfect for Friday the 13th’s Crystal Lake. It sets an ominous mood, eerie and lonely, giving a feeling like being lost deep in the woods. It works especially well for Friday the 13th because loons live on lakes and are native to New Jersey, where Crystal Lake is set.

But this call is heard in a number of movies, from the jungles of Peru in Raiders of the Lost Ark to Thanos’ home planet in Avengers: Endgame, which is not even on planet earth! The loon’s call is most commonly used to evoke dread and horror.

Vox Media has a great little video on the topic, and I will let them tell the full story of the loon in film:

To celebrate the Spookiest month of the year, we’ve created a ruef logo variation in the spirit of Halloween, and horror film’s best friend: the Common Loon.


Loon Facts

  • The Loon appears on the one dollar “loonie” coin in Canada
  • State bird of Minnesota
  • Just like penguins, loons have sharp spines called “papillae” on their tongue
  • Loons can fly up to 70 MPH!
  • Loons are usually solitary creatures