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What does an owl sound like?

Long-eared Owls and Barn Owls can be quite vocal, particularly around the nest site, in the spring and summer. They are both rarely seen in daylight, but even if it is dark, you might be lucky enough to hear one. They sound quite different

Have a listen. 

The first one is a calling adult Long-eared Owl. This is a call most commonly heard in early spring (a Pheaseant also calls in the background at the 20 second mark).  Long-eared Owl calls are most likely to be heard from large trees or forest edge.

Copyright, Herman van Oosten. Catalogue no. XC33207

The next (below) is the Long-eared Owl call most often heard. It is well-developed Long-eared Owl chicks calling for their parents to bring them food. It can be surprisingly loud and carry for up to a kilometre on a quiet night. It is usually heard around late May and in June. The call is often likened to a 'squeaky hinge'.

Copyright, David Marques. Catalogue no. XC59710

Cute and fluffy, yes, but this young Long-eared Owl can be noisy too. The loud, 'squeaky hinge' calls can be made persistently throughout June evenings (Photo: Eric Dempsey).

Barn Owl calls are quite different. The first call (below) is a single screech from an adult bird. It can be delivered from a perch or in flight, and is occasionally repeated. Barn Owl calls are most likely to be heard coming from inside or near derelict or ruined buildings, though the screech can also be made in flight over open areas.


Not all sounds you might hear at night are made by owls. Some deer have a loud, whistling call. Foxes often call at night, and while many fox sounds are dog-like, ie, barks, yelps and whining, they have a loud call which sounds a little like the screech of a Barn Owl. Have a listen (below) and see if you can tell the difference...


The other commonly heard call of Barn Owls (below) is often referred to as 'snoring'. It is of young at the nest, calling for food. This call is exclusively associated with a nest site, and can be faint, but gets ever louder as the chicks grow. In early spring, the female can make a sound similar to this to encourage the male to feed her while she is incubating the eggs.

Copyright, Tomas Belka. Catalogue no. XC75115

These two Barn Owl chicks are nearly fledged, but created quite a racket during August evenings when their persistent 'snoring' calls for food were heard by the neighbours (Photo: Niall Sheehan).