Why Do Owls Hoot? How, When, and Where Owls Hoot

“Why Do Owls Hoot?” you ask, as they serenade the night with their mysterious tunes.

Hooting serves communication and mate-finding purposes.

Stay tuned to uncover the secrets of owl-speak, and who knows—you may just charm the night away with your newfound knowledge!

Why Do Owls Hoot?

Owls hoot for various reasons, including communicating with other owls, establishing their territory, attracting a mate, or defending their nest. 

Hooting is a distinctive feature of owl vocalization, and different species of owls have unique hooting patterns and calls. 

Some owls also hoot for self-expression, while others use hooting to warn other animals of potential danger. Overall, hooting is an essential part of owl behavior and communication.

Advantages of Owl Hooting for Communication

Here are the advantages of owl hooting and how it helps them navigate their environment:

  1. Predator Alert

Hooting to signal the presence of a lurking danger.

  1. Territorial Defense

Asserting dominance and warding off potential intruders with their distinct call.

  1. Inspection Call

Approaching fellow owls with a hoot as they signal for an encounter.

  1. The Mating Call

Announcing their presence in the quest for a suitable partner.

  1. Duet of Love

Communicating with their mate, engaging in a melodious duet reaffirming their bond.

  1. Voice of Individuality

With unique hoot variations, owls can distinguish between familiar neighbors and unknown strangers, responding aggressively to unfamiliar calls.

Key Factors to Identify Owls Hoot

Distinguishing between owl hoots can be both a fascinating and rewarding experience. To differentiate owl hoots, consider the following factors:

  1. Species

Each owl species has a unique hooting pattern. Familiarize yourself with the various species in your area and their distinct vocalizations to identify the owl you’re hearing.

  1. Pitch and Tone

Listen carefully to the pitch and tone of the hoot. Some species have high-pitched calls, while others have low and deep vocalizations.

  1. Rhythm and Pattern

Pay attention to the rhythm and pattern of the hoots. Some owls have a consistent, rhythmic pattern, while others have irregular or varying sequences.

  1. Call Duration

Note the duration of the hoots. Some species have short, abrupt calls, while others have longer, drawn-out vocalizations.

  1. Frequency of Hooting

Observe how often the owl hoots. Some species repeatedly call in rapid succession, while others extend their hoots further.

  1. Time of Day

While most owls are active at night, some species are likelier to hoot during specific hours, such as dusk or just before dawn.

  1. Location and Habitat

Consider your habitat, as different owl species reside in various environments, such as forests, grasslands, or wetlands. Knowing which species are native to a specific habitat can help narrow the possibilities.

  1. Seasonality

Keep in mind that the time of year can affect owl hooting behavior. Breeding season, for example, often leads to increased vocalizations.

Do Owls Hoot in the Day?

Although owls are typically associated with nocturnal activity and nighttime hooting, there are instances when they do vocalize during the day. 

Several factors can contribute to daytime hooting:

  1. Breeding Season

During the breeding season, some owl species become more vocal day and night. They may hoot to attract mates, defend their nesting sites, or communicate with their partners.

  1. Territorial Disputes

Owls may hoot during the day to assert their dominance and claim their territory, especially when confronted by rival owls or other potential threats to their nesting sites.

  1. Disturbances

If an owl is disturbed from its daytime roost by predators, humans, or other animals, it might hoot as a warning or alarm call to signal potential danger.

  1. Crepuscular Activity

Some owl species, such as the short-eared or burrowing owl, are more crepuscular and active during dawn and dusk. These species are likelier to hoot during the daytime, particularly in the early morning or late afternoon.

  1. Diurnal Species

A few owl species, like the northern hawk owl and the snowy owl, are more diurnal (active during the day) than other owl species. They may hoot during the day while hunting or defending their territory.

What are the Various types of Owls hoot?

Owls produce various vocalizations, each serving a unique purpose in their communication repertoire. 

Here are some common types of hoots and calls owls to make:

  1. Territorial Hoots

Owls use these deep, resonant hoots to establish and defend their territory, warning rival owls and potential intruders to stay away.

  1. Mating Calls

During the breeding season, owls emit specific calls to attract a mate or maintain a bond with their partner. Mating calls may include hoots, trills, or other unique vocalizations.

  1. Alarm Calls

When threatened or disturbed, owls may produce alarm calls to warn other owls of potential danger. These calls can be sharp, high-pitched, or short, abrupt sounds.

  1. Contact Calls

Owls use contact calls to communicate with their mates or offspring, ensuring their well-being and maintaining social bonds. These calls can be soft hoots, coos, or chirps.

  1. Food Calls

Parents may use specific calls to announce the arrival of food for their offspring or to coordinate hunting efforts with their mates.

  1. Begging Calls

Young owls often produce begging calls, which are high-pitched and repetitive vocalizations, to solicit food from their parents.

  1. Duet Calls

Like the barred owl, some owl species engage in duet calls with their mates to strengthen their bond, synchronize their activities, or defend their territory.

What is the Difference between Hooting Owls and Non-Hooting Owls

Owls display diverse vocalizations, with some species known for their iconic hoots and others using alternative sounds for communication. 

Here’s a brief look at why some owls hoot and why others don’t:

Hooting Owls

These owls hoot primarily for territorial defense, attracting mates, and communicating with their partners or offspring. 

Their anatomy and habitat are adapted to produce deep, resonant hoots that carry long distances.


  1. Great Horned Owl
  2. Barred Owl
  3. Eurasian Eagle Owl
  4. Tawny Owl
  5. Spotted Owl

Non-Hooting Owls:

Some owls don’t hoot due to their specific habitat or hunting requirements. Instead, they rely on alternative vocalizations, such as screeches, hisses, or whistles, which may suit their environment or prey better. 

These owls might also have smaller bodies or different adaptations in their vocal organs that make hooting less efficient or effective for communication.


  1. Barn Owl: 

It communicates through screeches and hisses, which may be better suited for hunting in enclosed spaces like barns.

  1. Screech Owl: 

Emits high-pitched trills and whinnies, which might be more effective in their wooded habitats.

  1. Northern Pygmy Owl: 

Produces a series of high-pitched toots, which could be better for communication in dense forests.

  1. Burrowing Owl: 

Prefers to use various coos and chattering sounds, possibly due to their ground-dwelling lifestyle.

  1. Snowy Owl: 

Relies on hoots less frequently, opting for a mix of barks, cackles, and hisses, which could be more suitable for their Arctic tundra environment.

Is it harmful to hear an owl hooting?

Hearing an owl hoot is not inherently bad. Many appreciate the opportunity to listen to these fascinating night creatures. Owls play a crucial role in ecosystems by controlling rodent and insect populations, and their vocalizations are a natural part of their behavior.

However, cultural beliefs and superstitions in some parts of the world associate owl hooting with misfortune or bad omens. These beliefs are not scientifically supported and vary across different regions and cultures.

In reality, owl hooting is a form of communication used for various purposes, such as establishing territory, attracting mates, or warning against potential threats. 

It is essential to respect and appreciate these fascinating birds for their vital role in maintaining ecological balance.

What are the Cultural Beliefs and superstitions related to owls hooting

Beliefs and superstitions about owl hooting vary across regions and cultures. In some societies, owls are viewed as symbols of wisdom, good fortune, or protection. In others, they are considered omens of death, bad luck, or evil spirits. Here are some examples:

  1. India:

Owls are associated with the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi, and symbolize good luck and fortune.

 However, in some parts of India, people believe that hearing an owl hoot at night signifies an impending death or illness in the family.

  1. China: 

In Chinese mythology, owls are associated with the moon and are considered symbols of wisdom, truth, and patience. In some regions, hearing an owl hoot at night is believed to foretell lousy luck or a coming calamity.

  1. Native American Cultures: 

Many Native American tribes view owls as messengers or symbols of guidance and protection. While some tribes associate owl hooting with death or evil spirits and avoid mentioning their names or imitating their vocalizations.

  1. European Folklore: 

In medieval Europe, owls were often associated with witches and dark magic and were believed to be witches’ companions. Hearing an owl hoot at night was considered a bad omen, and some thought it signaled the approach of death or illness.

It is important to note that these beliefs and superstitions are not scientifically supported and should not be used to justify harming or mistreating owls. 

Why do owls hoot at night?

Owls hoot at night for various reasons, such as territorial defense, attracting mates, or warning against potential threats.

What does it mean when you hear an owl hooting?

Hearing an owl hoot means that the owl is active and vocalizing. The meaning of the hoot can vary depending on the context and cultural beliefs.

Is it good or bad luck to hear an owl hoot?

Cultural beliefs about owl hooting vary. Scientifically, no evidence exists that hearing an owl hoot is either good or bad luck.

Do owls sleep during the day?

Most owl species are active at night and rest during the day, but some may be active while hunting or defending their territory.

How far can you hear an owl hoot?

The distance owl hoots can travel on various factors, but they can travel up to a few hundred meters in open habitats and up to a few kilometers in closed habitats.

Are owl hoots always the same?

Owl hoots can vary in pitch, pattern, duration, and frequency, depending on the species and context. Some owl species engage in duet calls with their mates, while others have individual hoot variations.

The Fascinating Behavior of Owls Hooting

Owls hooting at night is a typical and fascinating behavior that has intrigued people for centuries. From establishing territories to attracting mates and communicating with their partners, owls have evolved a complex set of vocalizations that serve various purposes.

While some cultures associate owl hooting with bad omens or death, no scientific evidence supports these beliefs. Instead, we should appreciate these remarkable birds for their vital role in the ecosystem and respect their vocalizations as an essential aspect of their behavior.

Whether you are out in nature or hearing an owl hoot in your backyard, take a moment to appreciate the wonder and mystery of these birds of the night. With a better understanding of the reasons behind their hooting, we can deepen our appreciation for their unique behavior and contributions to the natural world.

Large eyes. Nocturnal. Secretive. All these are incredible facts about owls, yet we’ve forgotten something—owls hoot at night, but why?

When an owl hoots, you can’t mistake it for anything else. The sounds and calls they make are distinctive and don’t come out aimlessly. These nocturnal birds hoot for various reasons.

They can hoot to protect their territories or attract mates. Let’s discover why owls hoot at night or at times during the day.

Top 5 Explanations Why Owls Hoot

It might come surprising that owls are quiet birds and only hoot when there’s a need to do so. Indeed, you can walk through an area with a parliament of owls and cannot hear them make a single hoot. Owls love quiet environments so much that excessive noise can drive them away from their habitat.

This could imply there’s an underlying reason for their hooting. So, why do owls hoot?

1. Owls Hoot To Communicate

The most important reason why owls hoot is to communicate with other owls. Hooting is a form of communication that allows owls to send different messages. They vary the pitch, frequency, and rhythm of their hoots to change the message they are communicating.

Owls make unique vocalizations to signal different messages. For owls, hooting is their way of “talking.” It’s a key feature in their social lives. Owls use their voices in different ways, depending on the situation. Research shows that owls hear more frequencies than other birds, making it easy for them to send multiple messages in one hoot!

2. Owls Hoot To Defend Their Territories

By hooting, an owl can signal to other owls its presence in an. By making particular sounds, owls deter other owls from entering the territory. In this way, hooting can help owls to defend their community by marking their territory and keeping other owls out.

Owls use certain frequencies to hoot and mark their territories. Many owl species use their unique vocalizations to establish their territorial boundaries.

3. Owls Hoot To Warn Others in Times of Danger  

When owls spot potential dangers or predators, they make loud and shrilling sounds to send a warning to potential predators.

Other owls hear such noise and take caution by taking cover or flying away. Owls can also flap their wings in a particular way to make sounds that scare predators.

4. Owls Hoot to Attract Mates

Adult owls can hoot unceasingly in the breeding season to communicate with potential mates or current mates.

An eye-opening research by Aberdeen Centre For Environmental Sustainability shows a male owl hoots in a way that tells females their pedigree and quality. The research further explains larger owls make louder hoots, enabling them to get a partner easily than smaller owls who produce low-frequency hoots.

5. Owls Hoot To Announce Presence of Food

Owls are generous and will hoot in a certain way to inform others when they find food. By making soft hoots, an owl may attract other owls to a food source and encourage them to join in the hunt.

Another way owls communicate with other owls about the presence of food is by using body displays such as puffing up their feathers and spreading their wings.

How to Distinguish Types of Owl Hoots

Owls make distinct noises to convey varying messages. Note that there are many species of owls, and each species has its unique vocalizations.

Hoots of different owl species can vary in terms of pitch, volume, and duration, and they may also differ in terms of the specific sounds or patterns of sounds that they use.

However, most owls hoot for the same reasons. Let’s understand the different types of hoots made by owls.

Mating Seductive Hoots

Owls can make hoots to seek mates or communicate with their mating pairs. Mating calls are often slow, subdued, and soft. Often, females begin the calls before males respond to create an enchanting duet.

Defense Shrills

Owls can hoot in a screeching and hollering manner to scare off other owls and predators. When they face a threat, owls make shrilling, growling noises to warn other owls and intimidate predators.

Territorial Hoots

When competing species enter their territory, owls make loud and dramatic hoots, which often last longer than mating or defensive calls. Owls fend off other owls to protect their boundaries, secure mates, and access more food.

When Do Owls Hoot?  

While most owls primarily hoot at night, some species, such as the short-eared owl, can hoot in the daytime. Such owls are active during the day and at night. Owls also tend to hoot more during the new moon, when there’s bright moonlight.

They also hoot more frequently and louder during their breeding season in the spring and summer.

Owls hoot at different times, depending on the species and the specific circumstances. Owls are most likely to hoot when they are trying to communicate with other owls or when they are trying to mark their territory.

Why Do Owls Hoot at Night?

Owls are nocturnal birds, meaning they’re most active at night. This could explain why they hoot in the wee hours of the night to communicate with each other.

There is also some scientific evidence to suggest that owls may hoot at night as it’s their time to hunt. They make calls to other owls whenever they find food, which can be mice, small birds, or voles.

At night, owls face danger from predators such as foxes and wildcats. Upon spotting a predator, owls will make noise to warn others of danger. Most owls respond by also hooting to help in chasing away predators.

Why Do Owls Hoot Three Times?

Ornithologists have found out that owls make a call that involves a long hooting pattern succeeded by two shorter hoot sounds. This pattern produces a unique call that’s associated with the Great Horned owl.  

Some cultures relate to the call to supernatural powers. In Turkey, a certain culture believes that when an owl makes a call three times, a pregnant woman nearby will give birth to a boy.


So, why do owls hoot? As seen, owls hoot to communicate with other owls, pair with mates, alarm other owls, and to fend off predators. They make distinctive calls with variable pitches, rhythm, volume, and length to convey different messages.

Julian Goldie - Owner of ChiperBirds.com

Julian Goldie

I'm a bird enthusiast and creator of Chipper Birds, a blog sharing my experience caring for birds. I've traveled the world bird watching and I'm committed to helping others with bird care. Contact me at [email protected] for assistance.