Yes, owls can whistle.
According to All About Birds from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, adult Great Horned Owls can make an array of sounds, including whistles
. Spotted Owls can also give whistling calls, among other sounds. Additionally, ABC Birds notes that Eastern Screech-Owls have a descending, almost horse-like whinny that can be used to defend territories. Owls can make a variety of sounds, including hoots, chirps, screams, screeches, barks, growls, and shrieks.
How Do Owls Communicate If They Don’t Whistle?
Owls communicate using a variety of vocalizations, including hoots, chirps, whistles, screams, screeches, barks, growls, and shrieks
. These different sounds are called vocalizations, and most owls make them in order to communicate with other members of their species. Some owls, such as the Barn Owl, rely mainly on high-pitched screams to communicate, either to advertise themselves to other members of their species or to signal distress or a warning. Other owls, such as the Eastern Screech-Owl, emit a descending, almost horse-like whinny to defend their territories. Owls also communicate through growls, snarks, and beak snaps to tell predators or enemies to stay away. Overall, owls use different ranges of their vocals to deliver different messages, from defending their territory to attracting a mate.
Are There Any Other Distinct Sounds Or Vocalizations That Owls Make?
Yes, there are many distinct sounds and vocalizations that owls make.
Each species of owl has its own unique call, and they use their voices to communicate for many of the same reasons other birds do – to claim and defend territories, to attract mates, and to keep in contact with each other.
Some of the sounds and vocalizations that owls make include:
- Hoots: Hoots are the most well-known owl sound and are often associated with the classic “hoo, hoo” sound.
- Screeches: Some owls, such as the Barn Owl, emit a bloodcurdling shriek that almost sounds like a classic horror movie scream.
- Whistles: Great Horned Owls, for example, can make whistles, barks, shrieks, hisses, coos, and wavering cries.
- Cackles, hoots, caws, and gurgles: During courtship, mated pairs of Barred Owls perform a riotous duet of cackles, hoots, caws, and gurgles.
- Beak snaps: Both adult and young owls may snap their bills during vocalizations.
- MEEE-Owww: Some owls, like the Eastern Screech-Owl, make a descending horse-like sound.
- Wing clapping: Short-eared Owls use wing clapping to advertise their territory and impress females during courtship.
It’s important to note that the amount of noise owls make varies with the time of year, and there are seasons when many owl species are mostly quiet and other seasons when they are frequently calling.
What Are The Main Ways Owls Use Sound To Interact With Their Environment And Other Owls?
Owls use sound in several ways to interact with their environment and other owls.
Here are the main ways:
- Hunting: Owls rely on their sense of hearing to find and locate prey.
Barn Owls, for example, use sound frequencies above 8.5 kHz to direct and make an accurate strike at a prey item.
Barn owls can capture prey in pitch darkness or by diving into snow, while homing in on the sounds made by their prey.
- Locating sound: Owls use their uneven ears to judge exactly where sound is coming from.
If an owl hears a mouse rustling, the sound may reach one ear before it reaches the other ear.
The owl moves its head until the noise reaches both ears at the same time.
Once an owl has done this, it has pinpointed the location of the sound and is ready to pounce.
- Communication: Owls use a variety of sounds to communicate with each other, including yelps, whistles, barks, and beak snaps, just to name a few.
For example, the Barn Owl relies on a set of high-pitched screams to communicate, either to advertise itself to other members of its species or to signal distress or a warning.
Eastern Screech-Owls have a distinctive trill that they use to communicate with each other.
- Ear structure: Owl hearing differs from that of humans in several ways, not least in terms of the structure of their ear.
Through the ear drum and a single bone, the airborne sound waves are then transformed into fluid-borne vibrations which trigger thousands of minute hairs within the inner ear.
Sounds of different frequencies reach different parts of the inner ear and trigger different hairs to move, the resulting signals building up a complex picture of the sounds being received.
An owl opens and closes its ear conches by using muscles beneath the rings of feathers around the owl’s face.
The rings of feathers are called the facial disc.
The facial disc captures and funnels sound into the owl’s ears, just as a TV satellite dish funnels broadcast signals into its antenna.