Here Are 10 Birds That Sound Like Owls

Here Are 10 Birds That Sound Like Owls

Owls have long captivated our imaginations with their enigmatic presence, silent flight, and haunting hoots.

But did you know that bird you are hearing that sounds like an owl might not actually be an owl?

The truth is, there are several birds capable of imitating the hoots and sounds of owls! Such birds include the Stellar Jay, Mourning Doves, and Wilson’s Snipe.

In this article, we will delve into the intriguing world of avian mimicry and discover some feathered friends that sound surprisingly like owls.

Understanding Owl Calls: A Symphony of Sounds

Before we delve into the avian species that adeptly mimic owl sounds, it’s crucial to grasp the wide spectrum of calls that owls employ. Owls communicate using a myriad of vocalizations, each with a particular function.

Types of Owl Calls

Territorial Calls

One of the most common owl calls is the territorial call. This call is used by owls to establish and defend their territory. Territorial calls are often deep and resonant, conveying a clear message to other owls to stay away.

Mating Calls

Owls also use vocalizations to attract potential mates and communicate with their current partners during the mating season. These calls can range from soft hoots to high-pitched screeches, each species having its unique vocal signature.

Distinctiveness of Owl Calls

Each owl species has its own distinctive call, making it easier to identify the type of owl based on its vocalizations alone. From the haunting hoots of the Great Horned Owl to the piercing screeches of the Barn Owl, owl calls are as diverse as the species themselves.

Reasons for Recognizable Owl Calls

Owl calls are not only unique but also serve specific purposes. Their calls are loud and carry over long distances, making them effective means of communication. Additionally, many owl species are nocturnal, so their calls stand out in the quiet of the night. Some owls even possess the remarkable ability to mimic other animals and sounds, further adding to their vocal repertoire.

Appreciating Owl Calls

Understanding and appreciating owl calls is an important part of birdwatching. The next time you’re out in nature and hear the distinctive call of an owl, take a moment to pause and marvel at the beauty and uniqueness of these magnificent creatures. Now, let’s explore some birds that have mastered the art of mimicking owls.

10 Birds That Sound Like Owls: Unveiling the Mimics

While owls are known for their hoots, there are several other bird species that can fool us with their remarkable ability to mimic owl sounds. Let’s meet these avian impostors and discover their uncanny resemblance to owls.

1. Steller’s Jays: The Mimic Masters

Steller's Jays

Steller’s Jays, native to Western North America, are known for their exceptional vocal abilities.

These intelligent birds have a knack for mimicking the sounds of other birds, including owls.

They can produce a range of hooting and screeching sounds that closely resemble owl calls, especially those of the Barn Owl. Steller’s Jays often use their mimicry skills as a defense mechanism, mimicking owls to deter potential predators.

2. Band-tailed Pigeons: The Twilight Singers

Band-tailed Pigeons

Band-tailed Pigeons are known for their gentle cooing sounds, which can be mistaken for owl hoots, especially during twilight hours.

These pigeons produce low “hoo-hoo” type sounds as they settle down for the night or wake up in the morning.

Their cooing and clicking noises can easily be misconstrued as owl calls, further blurring the lines between the two avian species.

3. Mourning Doves: The Daytime Owls

Mourning Doves

The mournful cooing of Mourning Doves often leads to them being mistaken for owls.

These doves are widespread across North America and are active during the day, unlike most owls.

However, their distinctive “hooo-hoo-hoo” call bears a resemblance to the classic hooting of owls. The mournful melody of Mourning Doves can easily confuse the untrained ear, making them a common contender for mistaken owl sounds.

4. Nightjars: The Nocturnal Mimics


Nightjars, a family of birds that includes several species, are known for their vocalizations that can resemble owl calls.

While their sounds are generally quite different from owls, the fact that they can be heard calling at night like owls can lead to confusion.

Western Nightjars emit a croaking noise that may be mistaken for certain owl calls, particularly to an untrained ear.

5. Chuck-Will’s-Widow: The Nighttime Serenader

Chuck-Will’s-Widows are another bird species commonly heard at night. Their distinctive mating call is often mistaken for an owl’s hoot.

With its high-pitched and rhythmic sound, the chuck-will’s-widow’s call bears a striking resemblance to the hoots of certain owl species. The unique rhythm and tone of their vocalizations can easily deceive listeners into thinking they are in the presence of an owl.

6. Rock Pigeons: The Urban Impostors

Rock Pigeons

Rock Pigeons, also known as Rock Doves, have made themselves at home in urban environments worldwide. These adaptable birds have a repertoire of sounds that occasionally resemble the hoots of owls. When startled, Rock Pigeons emit loud clicking noises, similar to the territorial vocalizations of owls during breeding season. Their cooing sounds, combined with their urban presence, can easily lead to misidentification as owl calls.

7. Common Nighthawks: The Evening Whistlers

Common Nighthawks are most active at dusk and dawn. These birds emit distinct vocalizations that can be mistaken for owl calls.

Their nasal peent or beer call, followed by a series of clicks, resembles the sounds produced by some owl species.

The unique combination of these sounds during the twilight hours can easily fool even experienced birdwatchers into thinking they are hearing an owl.

8. Eastern Whip-poor-wills: The Nocturnal Chanters

Eastern Whip-poor-wills are renowned for their distinctive “whip-poor-will” call, which echoes through the night. While their vocalizations may not sound exactly like owls, they share the same nocturnal lifestyle.

Whip-poor-wills produce a long-drawn-out “whoo” sound that lasts for over two seconds, followed by shorter bursts.

Although their calls may differ from traditional owl hoots, their nocturnal presence can create confusion among listeners.

9. Tawny Frogmouths: The Australian Mimics

Tawny Frogmouths

Tawny Frogmouths, native to Australia, are known for their owl-like appearance and vocalizations.

These nocturnal birds have a low-pitched “hoot-hoot-hoot” call that closely resembles the classic sound associated with owls. Their steady and consistent beat adds to the illusion of hearing an owl.

Tawny Frogmouths have perfected the art of mimicry, fooling many into thinking they are encountering an owl in the land down under.

10. Wilson’s Snipe: The Coastal Impersonator

Wilson's Snipe

Wilson’s Snipe, commonly found in coastal areas and near bodies of water, can produce a high-pitched chirping noise that can be confused with owl sounds.

These birds emit a distinctive call during dawn and dusk, which can easily be mistaken for the hoots of owls, such as the screech owl.

However, careful listening and observation can help differentiate Wilson’s Snipe from owls once you know what to listen for.

Summing Up

In the fascinating world of birds, mimicry plays a vital role in communication and survival.

While owls have long captivated our imaginations with their mysterious allure, there are several other bird species that can deceive us with their owl-like calls.

From the mimicry masters like Steller’s Jays to the daytime impostors like Mourning Doves, these birds demonstrate the incredible versatility of avian vocalizations.

So, the next time you hear a hoot in the distance, remember that it might not always be an owl. Take a moment to appreciate the remarkable mimicry skills of these feathered performers and let their calls transport you into the captivating world of avian communication.

Birdwatching is not just about spotting birds; it’s about listening to their songs, calls, and imitations. So, grab your binoculars, venture into nature’s symphony, and unravel the mysteries of birds that sound like owls but aren’t!

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