Have you ever been out at night and heard an owl hoot? You may wonder why they do this.
Well, most owls are nocturnal animals that hunt during the night. When out at night owls use a kind of warbling or whistling sound, which is what we often refer to as an owl hoot.
In this article we will explore why owls use this sound at night and also talk about other owl sounds.
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Why do owls hoot at night?
The main use of the owl hoot is to keep in contact with other owls at night. The ability to see in the dark is not a strong point for most owl species, so they rely on sound to give them information about where their prey is and what it’s doing.
By making a series of different noises, owls can let others know they have found food or are being attacked by another predator.
In addition, due to their nocturnal nature, owls need some way of telling when it’s time to go hunting. Many different species synchronize their activities using the same sounds. In this way an entire group of owls will all be ready at roughly the same time and be able to hunt together.
This is especially important at night when there isn’t much light to go by and the owls benefit from all being up as it increases their chances of catching food. For instance, if some owls are still sleeping, those who get up early have a greater advantage as they can catch prey that has not been caught yet.
Why do owls hoot during the day?
Owls are not entirely nocturnal. They switch between being active during the day and night throughout the year.
This means that they often go out to hunt during the day or spend time awake in their nests. When away from other owls they tend to be relatively quiet as they want to avoid alerting would-be predators of their location. However, when near others, owls will hoot if they get too close together for comfort.
In addition, humans have caused some part of this change in activity cycle by destroying owl habitats and making noise that frightens them. Since arriving on the American continent people have been using loud noises such as shouts and gunshots to scare off birds from crops and plantations.
In addition, farms often use noisy machines to help with planting crops or harvesting them. This means that owls are more likely to be active during the day instead of at night as it is safer for them.
What other sounds do owls make?
The hooting sound that we often hear is just one type of noise that owls will make. The reason that the owl hoot noise is popularly attributed to all owls is that it’s relatively easy for humans to imitate and it covers a wide range of other noises.
Some owls, such as barn owls, screech loudly when they want to get a point across. Other species of owls make a barking noise like a dog. Still other species of owls make high pitched squeals.
All of these sounds can be particularly loud and shrill. They are used to communicate with other owls in the area and also as a warning to potential predators that they should not come any closer. If an owl hears the sound of another owl making this noise, it will act as an alarm call telling them to take cover or fly away quickly.
Another less common call made by owls is one where all you really hear is their wings flapping against the air. This particular sound is known as wing clapping. It’s similar to how many other bird species flap their wings while flying but with owls this is meant to be a warning or an aggressive sound.
It’s made by the owl vibrating its wing bones and feathers at a quick pace, which creates a loud whooshing noise.
Why do some owls not hoot?
All this makes a pretty good case for why owls hoot, but what about those who don’t? Well, there are a few reasons that an owl might not make this noise despite it generally being expected of them during nighttime hours.
Firstly, as we covered before, some species of owl will actually get more active during the day. These species tend to live in areas where their prey is nocturnal (that is, they sleep during the day) or would be extremely difficult to catch if hunted at any other time.
For example, one such species is the burrowing owl. This animal lives in underground holes which it digs itself and so tends to be active during the day when its prey comes out to sunbathe on its doorstep.
Another reason that an owl might not hoot at night is because they are sick or injured. Owls who are too weak to hunt will not call for their friends as they don’t want them to get caught off guard by other predators while searching for them. They may also just take shelter somewhere quiet where other owls won’t be looking for them until they’re better again.
Finally, some species of owl do not actually go out hunting at all during the nighttime hours but tend to sleep instead. In this case, no noise is necessary.
As you can see, the reasons why owls hoot are many and varied. However, they all come down to one thing, which is that it’s a call for other owls in the area to stay aware of their surroundings.
The hooting noise usually means “stay away” or “get ready” depending on what is being said and by whom it is being said. This behaviour exists in both males and females of the species although it is perhaps most well known in male owls who often use their hooting noises to find a mate.
So next time you’re out at night and you hear an owl, don’t worry if it’s lonely or cold, just be glad that it’s safe and you didn’t accidentally step on it while out for a jog!