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


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.

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