The wise old owl and its hoot are some of the main things people think about when they hear about the unique bird. Owls are beautiful and majestic, but they are also fierce hunters with defensive behavior. From the superstitions behind their hoots to the different types of hoots, there is a lot to learn about the majestic owl. Many people think of their solid hoot high in the tree. They don’t wonder why owls hoot at night.
An owl’s language is much more than a simple hoot. Their hoot is their communication, their way of announcing themselves, their way of defending themselves, and so much more. We’ll dive into the reasons why owls hoot, the different types of owls you may hear, and even the superstitions behind their hoots.
An Owl’s Hoot Has Meaning Behind It
You may stop dead in your tracks when you hear an owl hoot. Many people start to search the trees for it to get a glimpse of the beautiful bird. This is an owl’s way of talking. Each owl species has a unique hoot. They use these hoots to talk to each other. Their sound can change with what they want to do or need from the other owl.
Most humans don’t speak owl language, but you can listen to their patterns to understand them at times. Owls make changes to their patterns of hooting so the other owls can understand them. Owls think a lot like humans. They might even talk to themselves in their language. Owl conversations can cover many topics.
Owning Their Territory
One of the most popular reasons why owls hoot at night is they are asserting their dominance over their territory. Male owls are most known to hoot over their territory. They like to tell the other males this ways to stay away from their space.
Owls are very territorial and they are well known for their hunting skills. When they find their “happy place” with a great supply of dinner, they will roost and make it their home. They hoot continuously to show all of the other owls that this is their own hunting place. It’s been taken, and other owls are not welcome here.
By hooting, the owl is telling the other owls they aren’t willing to share lunch. They’ll face wrath if they come into this space. Sometimes several different species will try to claim the same types of areas. Usually, the owl is trying to alert a different type of owl. Owls also might be looking for a happy nesting space besides an eating space. They want to tell the other owls they have found the perfect nesting site. No matter what, owls just want to protect their space.
Owls are also very territorial over their owl babies. They hoot to alert other owls that they have claimed the space for their family home. It’s important to the owl to hoot to scare off birds or warn others they will be attacked if they get close to their babies.
Warn Away Offending Owls
Owls are usually quiet. They like to keep to themselves, too. It isn’t surprising that an owl may sneak up on another owl if it wants their food or nest. If an owl is happily searching for food perched on a tree limb, they are focused on the ground below them. They probably wouldn’t notice another owl sneaking up on them trying to get in on their dinner.
If this happens, it isn’t good news. Owls don’t want to fight. They would rather eat that mouse on the ground. This is why you might hear a loud hoot warning. The owl is getting the word out that it’s hunting right now. It wants all of the other owls to get away and find their own dinner.
Find A Mate
Owls are like a single person in a bar announcing themselves. An owl loudly hooting often means they are out looking for their mate. They call out for potential mates in a large area. This is the first and main part of their mating cycle. It happens in two ways.
It’s usually the male owl that enters a space calling out to the lady owls in the space. They’re making themselves known so that the female owls are aware there is an eligible owl waiting for them. This can also lure the female owls closer to the area. Think of it as they are at the bar next door, but their perfect mate is calling out to them. The female hears the hoot and investigates as she wonders if he is worth the trouble.
A male owl may also use his hoot to speak to a certain mate. He might pick out his female owl in an area and call out to her. Some owls will follow other mating rituals while others will simply hoot. It is most common for the owl to spot his female and repeatedly hoot at her. This starts the ball rolling so he can figure out if she is his perfect match.
This hoot isn’t reserved just for the male owls. Female owls will give a hoot back in response to the male’s hoot. She is telling him that she might be interested in mating with him. They start taclking in their own set of dialogue. She might lead the conversation and make him come to her. The female owl must decide if she is even interested in the male owl. Since most owls mate for life, she doesn’t want to risk making a mistake.
Talk To Mates
Owls mates seem to have their own little language when “speaking” to each other. Owl mates may speak to each other for many reasons. Some owls even have a special sound that is only used when speaking to their mate. Think of it as their own love language.
Sometimes they hoot simply for the fact they’re having their own conversation. Owls sometimes don’t speak directly to eat other when they are hooting either. A female owl may call out from her nest talking to that male owl while he hunts for dinner. They might be sharing information about prey or talking about surrounding threats.
Owls also use these hoots to reconnect with their spouse. Sometimes the owl pair cannot stay together in the physical sense. They may separate and then come back together during mating season. When one owl returns to their area, they will hoot to the other one. Based on their love language and special sounds, they’re able to reconnect in an area filled with many other owls. This is a special thing about owls. It’s also very benefication for migratory species of owls that might physically lose each other when they’re traveling. It’s a bit like a love story with a happy ending all because of hoots.
Announce They Are Present
Most owls don’t like to hang out with other owls. They want their own little space with their own little family. They will often announce their presence in an area with a hoot. This is more of a courtesy than a warning.
Owls will hoot in this way when they’re out hunting in a new location or hanging out in a new area. This is the owl’s way of hollering out to see if anyone is home before they check out their turf. As we stated before, owls don’t want a fight. They simply want everyone to know they’re in the area.
Tell Everyone Dinner Is Here
This is a rare hoot for owls, but some unique owls will tell everyone else about dinner. Most owls don’t hunt together, but they will sometimes share a space and a meal. An owl may hoot to tell their friends that there is potential prey in this area. They are alerting them to the fact this is a good hunting ground.
Owls will often share this type of hoot with their mate. They will sometimes alert the mate to potential prey. This is rare for any owl, but you might hear it from time to time.
Different Types Of Hoots
An owl’s hoot isn’t always the same. If you spoke their language, you would hear the different types of hoots for different things. You would even be able to tell the difference between the species of owls. A barn owl’s hoot doesn’t even sound like the other owls. It’s a loud scream instead of a normal hoot that most people associate with the owl. It might actually scare you if you heard it in the darkness. The Eastern screech-owl sounds like a horse whinny to many people. Some people think a saw-whet owl sounds just like a whetstone sharpening its saw.
The vocal range of different owl species may include at least 13 sounds. When a male is showing aggression, their hoot is often louder and longer. When a male and a female are talking, their hoots will complement one another.
Sometimes you will hear a short hoot when owls are approaching each other. These will sometimes sounds like mumbles to the other owl as well. Screams are often high pitched hoots. These might be ascending or descending in tone. You may also hear a one or two phrase hoot. Phrases may even sound as if they are broken into a few hoots like a sentence. Gurgles or mumbles are the hoots that are most likely heard in in duets.
Duets are usually spontaneous between owls. Sometimes, the female owl will sing a duet after the male brings her dinner. This is considered courrtship behavior between mating owls. This also helps the female owl’s ability to lay her eggs.
Why Owls Hoot At Night By Type
You may think owls only hoot at night, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hear them hoot during the day. The time of their hoot usually depends on the the type of owl. Owls are broken into three individual classes. The thought that they only hoot at night is just a stereotype because they are more active during the night. We’ll break down these three classifications of owls so you can figure out which one you might be hearing at any time of day.
Most owls are nocturnal. They relax during the day and are much more active at night. Nocturnal owls hunt when it is dark. Remember, one reason they hoot is due to their hunting style. Owls see best at night. They use darkness to move around and hunt quickly like a thief in the night. Most of the time, these owls are found sleeping during the day.
Nocturnal owls are most well known for their distinct eyes. They usually have dark, deep eyes. They’re eyes are reflective so they can see even better. If an animal is running on the ground, their eyes zero in on them without any hesitation. They start to hunt for prey at dusk. Other nocturual owls wait until it’s darkest to hunt their prey. Popular nocturnal owls are the barred owl, spotted owl, and barn owl.
Crepuscular owls mostly enjoy the twilight hours. They spend most of their night hunting as the sun is lowest in the sky. You’ll usually hear them at dusk. These owls have orange eyes for low-light settings. A little over 20% of owls in the world are crepuscular in nature. Popular creuscular owls are the burrowing owl, long-eared owl, and short-eared owl.
Diurnal owls are the ones you think you’ve heard during the day. They are actually known for being active during the day. There are not that many types of diurnal owls because there are many other owls that have their same behaviors when they are in certain environments. Some owls just hunt during the day because more opportunities present themselves. Others only act like this in response to predators in that same area.
The majority of this type of owl is known by its bright yellow eyes. These type of eyes helps them be able to see throughout the day easily. It’s hard to nail down a percentage of true diurnal owls because not all of these owls mean to be daytime hunters. The most popular diurnal owls include the pygmy owl and northern hawk owl. Circumstancial diurnal owls include the eastern screen owl, great horned owl, and the great growl owl.
Adaptative Species Of An Owl
To truly understand why owls hoot at night, it’s important to learn about the way they adapt to nature as a species. An owl is a great predator with numerous biological adaptations that helps them live and thrive in certain circumstances. Each different type of owl is known for the adaptations they must make so they can live in their surroundings. There are a few natural adaptations they must make to live in every environment. Most of these adaptations allow them to better communicate and to precisely hunt. This is helpful to each of their species. Some of the most common adaptations include a sharp beak and sharp vision for hunting, their hooting that explains their special language patterns, and their silenced feathers that are perfect to stalk their prey. They also have very strong talons to easily catch their prey. One of their most unique adaptions is their ability to process bones safely. They can eat their prey almost whole without issues.
Superstitions of Why Owls Hoot At Night
Now that you know why owls hoot at night, you should know their hoots often have myths surrounding them. In some cultures, they view owls as a sacred animal. Some people believe their hoots mean a healthy harvest. Some people think owls steal your souls.
Ancient Romans thought their hoot meant imminent death. An owl’s hoot seemed to happen right before the death of a few Roman emperors , even Julius Caesar and Augustus. Romans would try to prevent this type of death by nailing a deceased owl to the door of their home. This supposedly warded off evil.
The Malayans believed that owls took away their newborn babies each night. Germans believed if they heard an owl hoot as a baby was being born, that baby would have an unlucky life. The Greeks were worried that owls were witches switching shapes from a human to an animal. On the other hand, some believe owls are a sign of wisdom and good luck.
No matter what you believe, owls are present throughout the globe. They do hunt and they do defend their nest, but they probably don’t steal the souls of humans with their hoots.
In conclusion, you may never listen to an owl’s hoot the same way. Their hoot is much more than a simple animal sound. These intelligent birds use their hoots as a way to survive in any environment. They may use their hoot to help them snatch up their prey or tell every other owl to get off their turf. Their special way of talking to other owls helps them thrive and survive without fear in the wild. Look up and listen to their secret language.
- Owls can have a variety of different eye colors, in fact, birds in general can have eye colors ranging from yellow, to red, to pitch black. Learn more about the birds with red colored eyes in this article!
- Ever sat there and wonder why so many birds have such different beaks? We have answers for you. Check out our article on bird beaks and their various different uses.