Why Do Owls Hoot? [Shocking Facts You Must Know]

owls hoot at night

It is very often in Indian parlance that we invoke these majestic sage-like creatures when we have to suggest that someone is of reduced wit, however in other cultures, owls are associated with wisdom. Yes, the irony of it.

So, Why do owls hoot?  Owls hoot to communicate and convey their messages. They generally hoot to claim their territory and it could also be a signal of intruder approaching their area. A different hooting sound is observed when they call their mates.

We hear of them often but on the contrary, see them seldom for the reason that owls are primarily nocturnal beings.

I mention this primarily because other species of owls are active and thrive during the day or some specific kinds register their presence during certain hours only such as dawn and dusk. In taxonomical terms, they are termed diurnal and crepuscular.

Though nestled in all the fur and feather, they appear tiny and rounded up, their wings can span as much as the full arm-stretch of an adult human, and their eyes which are almost the size of a human does not have a movable pupil, that means they cannot see other than in the direction their head is turned to.

Doesn’t all these trivia add to the mystery of these rarely seen birds?

The mystery associated with these enormous birds is so profound that in every other horror movie, the ‘owl hoot’ is the signature audio theme you hear following the uncanny dark visuals for the depiction of night.

And this is what we are pondering over in this blog: Get to know why owls hoot? and What does it mean when you hear an owl hoot?

What does it mean when you hear an owl hoot?

Hooting in owls is a language for them to communicated different messages. Here are some reasons for owl hooting.

  • Owls hoot to safeguard their territory.
  • They also hoot to keep the intruders out and convey the message to their mates.
  • Owls hoot differently to call their mates during mating season.
  • You can hear owls hooting pairs to affirm their bonding.

Sometimes owls hoot differently and aggressively when they see a strange owl coming towards their pack.

What does an owl hooting signify?

Owls hoot for the very purpose we speak, sparrows chirp, and dolphins whistle. Hooting is owls’ way of communicating. It’s the language they speak. Owls hoot to convey different messages, directed to different targets such as foes, friends, and love.

As the nature of the wild is, you have got to appear aggressive and dominant so that your enemies don’t take you lightly and encroach upon your food and territory, so the owl’s hooting is a survival tactic.

They hoot to assert their dominance, claim their territory, and ward off their enemies by scaring them away with a rumbling hoot.

The other reason as is common in many other species of the animal kingdom is that they hoot to attract their mates.

It is the charge of a male owl to give a call sign to a female owl to indicate attraction and if the female reciprocates with a familiar sound, then they are hitched.

The behavior is not just typical of owls but of many other avian species and animals such as bats, koalas, deer, toads, and specific moths which all have their distinct mating calls for engaging in the project of procreation.

Do owls hoot only during the night?

There are more than 220 million species of owls and they can be widely categorized into three kinds: nocturnal, diurnal, and crepuscular.

It is only the nocturnal ones that hoot during the night but given that these form the largest percentage of all the three kinds and are the most prevalent among others in the groves and thicket around human habitations, we have stereotyped them as only hooting during the day.

Do all the owls hoot similarly?

No, the world of owls is so baffling that there are more than a thousand very distinct sounds all produced by the same category of these birds and at times it gets so confusing that they almost sound like doves or crows even.

The signature ‘hoo’ ‘hoo’ sound that we recognize as to be an owl’s hoot is produced by the great barred owl species that predominantly occupy North America and other Pacific Island countries.

An owl can also produce different sounds for different purposes.

For instance, a male owl when signaling his paramour, then the sound is a series of deep soft sounds but when fending his guard against a foe can release thunderous gurgling.

The below video is from Cornell Lab of Ornithology which shows different types of owls hoot in United States.

Here are Different Noises That Owls Make.

Owls hoot differently to convey different messages and therefore if you listen to their hooting styles you would understand the a lot of variations in it.

Here are different noises owl make to convey different messages.

Territorial Calls

This is the most common call they make when some other owl tries to claim their terriotry.

Owls don’t make their own nests and claim a pre-bulit nest by other birds. Once they claim some other birds nest they start hooting to let others know that they have claimed their home no one is allowed to be in that nest.

These hooting are mostly made by them during night and also helps them to attract females.

Defence Calls

Have you ever listened a loud screeching or shrieking sound of owl? Yes this is the type of noise they make when attacked by a predator.

This is usually heard when there are several habitats of owls nearby and some other owl is trying to claim their territory. They produce a loud screeching sound to show up their strength and keep them out of their nest.

Threatening calls

Sometimes you might hear a sound similar to the barking of dogs but it could be an owl that is surprised and threatened.

When owls see a predator coming towards its nest, they produce a snarling lower pitched sound and sometimes even growl at them to threaten them.

Owls also produce clicking sound and is produced by their beak snapping.

So, hooting is not what an owl sound seems to be. They produce various other sounds depending upon the situation they are facing.

Courtship Hooting

Owls do hoot to protect their territory but at the same time they hoot to attract their females. The courtship hooting can generally be observed at dusk when male hoot deep and a bit soft and wait for a return hoot from their female counterpart.

The female replay back to them with a high pitched hoot.


Screeching And Screaming

Screeching and screaming are also a part of owls hooting behavior to communicate with their mates. This screaming and screaming sound can be observed during night when they call out their mates. The sound mostly resembles like a woman screaming.


In short, owls generally hoot at night to protect their territory from the intruder owls and to attract females. You can also listen to screeching or low barking voice of owls when they are threatened or surprised.



Donald Bergeson

I have always been fascinated by the skill, strength, and beauty of birds.They help in maintaining a balance of ecological environment. At Best Bird Guide, I share all of my experiences and discoveries that I have got so far and inspire more devoted fans.

Recent Posts