Owl Calls
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If you’ve ever spent a night in the woods, you’ve probably been serenaded by the eerie calls of owls. These mysterious birds are known for their haunting hoots and screeches that echo through the night. But have you ever wondered why owls make these sounds? Or what they mean?

Owl calls are an essential part of the ecosystem, serving a variety of purposes from communication to hunting strategies. Understanding these calls can provide valuable insight into the behavior and habits of these elusive creatures.

In this article, we’ll explore the different types of owl calls, their meanings, and how to identify them in the wild. Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher or just curious about the sounds of the night, this guide has everything you need to know about owl calls.

Types of Owl Calls

The barred owl's hooting call could be heard for miles around, marking its territory in the forest.
The barred owl’s hooting call could be heard for miles around, marking its territory in the forest.

Owls are known for their unique vocalizations, with each species having its distinct set of calls. Here are some of the most common types of owl calls you may hear:

Hooting calls

Hooting calls are the most recognizable owl calls and are typically associated with the larger owl species. These calls are deep and resonant, with a distinct rhythm and cadence. They are often used for territorial marking and communication with other owls.

Screeching calls

Screeching calls are high-pitched and piercing, often used by smaller owl species. These calls can be quite loud and are used for communication, attracting mates, and as warning signals.

Whistling calls

Whistling calls are soft, flute-like sounds, often used by the smallest owl species. These calls can be used for territorial marking and communication with other owls.

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Trilling calls

Trilling calls are a series of rapid, high-pitched notes that are often used by owl species for courtship and territorial marking.

Barking calls

Barking calls are short, sharp sounds used by some owl species as warning signals or to communicate with other owls.

Other unique calls

Some owl species have unique calls that don’t fit into any of the above categories. For example, the barn owl has a distinctive hissing sound, while the snowy owl has a barking call that sounds like a dog.

Knowing the different types of owl calls can help you identify which species of owl you may be hearing in the wild.

Reasons for Owl Calls

The great horned owl's trilling calls were a beautiful and eerie sound in the stillness of the night.
The great horned owl’s trilling calls were a beautiful and eerie sound in the stillness of the night.

Owls are known for their distinct calls, which serve a variety of purposes. Here are some of the main reasons why owls make calls:

Communication with Other Owls

Owls use calls to communicate with other members of their species. These calls can convey a wide range of information, from identifying themselves to other owls to warning of potential danger. Many species of owls have unique calls that are specific to their species, allowing them to recognize each other in the dark.

Attraction of Mates

During breeding season, male owls will often use calls to attract potential mates. These calls can be loud and persistent, serving as a way to establish dominance and attract females. Female owls will often respond to these calls with their own unique vocalizations, leading to a complex courtship ritual.

Territorial Marking

Owls are territorial creatures and will often use calls to mark their territory and warn off potential intruders. These calls can be aggressive and persistent, serving as a warning to other owls to stay away.

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Warning Signals

Owls will also use calls as a way to warn other animals of potential danger. For example, if an owl spots a predator nearby, it may emit a series of warning calls to alert other animals in the area.

Hunting Strategies

Finally, owls will use calls as a hunting strategy. Some species of owls will emit calls that mimic the sounds of their prey, luring them into range for an easy meal. Other species of owls will use calls to coordinate their hunting efforts with other members of their species.

Overall, owl calls serve a crucial role in the lives of these fascinating creatures, allowing them to communicate, attract mates, defend their territory, and hunt for food.

Identifying Owl Calls

Owls are known for their distinctive calls, but identifying them can be a challenge, especially for novice birdwatchers. Here are some tips to help you distinguish between different owl calls.

Characteristics of Different Owl Calls

Each species of owl has a unique call, but there are some general characteristics to look out for. Hooting calls are low-pitched and often sound like the classic “who-who” sound associated with owls. Screeching calls are higher-pitched and more shrill, while whistling calls have a melodic quality to them. Trilling calls are often used for communication between owls, while barking calls are used as warning signals.

Audio Examples of Owl Calls

To get a better idea of what different owl calls sound like, it’s helpful to listen to recordings. There are many online resources that offer audio samples of different owl calls, including the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website. By listening to these recordings, you can train your ear to recognize different owl calls in the wild.

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Tips for Identifying Owl Calls in the Wild

Identifying owl calls in the wild can be challenging, especially if you’re in an unfamiliar area. However, there are a few tips that can make the process easier. First, pay attention to the time of day. Most owls are nocturnal, so their calls are more likely to be heard at night. Second, try to locate the source of the sound. Owls are often perched in trees or on other high structures, so look up to see if you can spot one. Finally, use a field guide or app to help you identify the species based on their call. With practice, you’ll become more adept at recognizing different owl calls and identifying the species that make them.

Owl Calls FAQ

Common questions about owl calls

Q: Why do owls hoot?

A: Owls hoot for a variety of reasons, including communication with other owls, territorial marking, and attracting mates.

Q: What do owl calls sound like?

A: Owl calls can vary depending on the species and context. Hooting calls are the most common, but owls can also make screeching, whistling, trilling, and barking calls.

Q: Can you identify owl species by their calls?

A: Yes, different owl species have distinct calls that can help with identification. However, it takes practice and experience to accurately identify owl calls in the wild.

Misconceptions about owl calls

Q: Do owls only hoot at night?

A: While owls are most active at night, they can make calls during the day as well. Some species, such as the burrowing owl, are diurnal and primarily active during the day.

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Q: Do all owl species hoot?

A: No, not all owl species hoot. Some, like the snowy owl, make more of a screeching or barking sound.

Q: Are owl calls always a sign of danger?

A: Not necessarily. While some owl calls can be used as warning signals, many are simply a means of communication or attracting mates.

By understanding the common questions and misconceptions about owl calls, you can deepen your knowledge and appreciation for these fascinating birds. Whether you’re a beginner or experienced birder, there is always more to learn about owl calls.


In conclusion, owl calls are a fascinating and essential part of the natural world. From communication to hunting, these sounds serve a variety of purposes that help owls thrive in their habitats.

By understanding owl calls, we can gain valuable insights into the behavior and habits of these magnificent birds. Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or just enjoy spending time in nature, taking the time to learn about owl calls can deepen your appreciation for the world around us.

At Critter Kingdom, we are passionate about all creatures big and small, and we hope this article has inspired you to learn more about the amazing world of owls. So next time you hear the haunting call of an owl in the night, remember the importance of these sounds in the ecosystem, and take a moment to appreciate the wonders of nature.

By Andy Marcus

Hello, my name is Andy Marcus, and I am a passionate dog lover and enthusiast. For me, there is nothing quite like the joy and love that a furry friend can bring into our lives. I have spent years studying and learning about dogs, and have made it my mission to share my knowledge and expertise with others through my website. Through my website, I aim to provide comprehensive information and resources for dog owners and enthusiasts. Whether it's training tips, health and nutrition advice, or insights into dog behavior, I strive to create a platform that is accessible and useful to everyone who loves dogs.