Game Calls: Owls Hoot for Their Teams

In the spirit of Sunday’s big game, we’re taking a wildlife approach to the sport. This post is all about the #SuperbOwls on our roster and the unique calls and hoots they make. Each owl species has its own voice.

Barred Owl

Barred owl at Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts. Photo by Gary Freedman.

Barred owl at Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts. Photo by Gary Freedman.

You can recognize a barred owl by its unique series of hoots, or the call it makes. To the untrained ear it may seem like the owl is saying “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” This call is fairly easy to imitate. See if you can imitate the call of the barred owl next time you visit your local wildlife refuge. If you’re lucky, you may see one staring down at you from its perch in the trees.

Audio courtesy of Macaulay Library © Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owl_Red Morph 1

Eastern screech owl at Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey. Photo by Jason Milligan.

Eastern screech-owls sing to each other to communicate. Or more accurately they screech to each other. Eastern screech-owls give off an even-pitched trill, called a “bounce song” or tremolo, followed by a shrill whinny sound. Eastern screech-owls use the “bounce song” to keep in touch with family and whinny to defend their territory.

Audio courtesy of Macaulay Library © Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Great Horned Owl

Pine Barrens Discovery Day - 2015

Great horned owl at Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge in New York. Photo by Anthony Graziano.

Great horned owls have a variety of calls including hoots, whistles, barks, shrieks, hisses, coos and cries. Great horned owls mark their territory with deep rhythmic hoots: hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo. Young owls, called fledglings, will scream to their parents to be fed. Sound like anyone you know during football season? It’s all about the snacks!

Audio courtesy of Macaulay Library © Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Great Gray Owl

Great Gray_Sunkhaze_Woody Gillies

Great gray owl at Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Maine. Photo by Woody Gillies.

Adult great gray owls make a soft double hoot when delivering food to their young. During breeding season (March-July), males and females give a series of low-pitched hoos to each other. Each hoo lasts about 6-8 seconds. The calls of adult males are lower pitched than their female counterparts.

Audio courtesy of Macaulay Library © Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Short-Eared Owl

short-eared owl

Short – eared owl at Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge in New York. Photo by Amanda Chanowsky.

Unlike the other #SuperbOwls on this list, short-eared owls are not very vocal. However, they can make a sound or two when they need to. There is a call for courtship and for defense. Male short-eared owls will give off a series of a dozen or so hoots during a courtship flight. Male and female owls may also scream, whine, or bark as a way to defend their nest and young.

Audio courtesy of Macaulay Library © Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl 4

Snowy owl at Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey. Photo by Chris Hendrickson.

Snowy Owl 1

Snowy owl at Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey. Photo by Chris Hendrickson.

Snowy owls are one of the most iconic and recognizable owl species in the Northeast, mainly due to their all-white appearance, which is only seen in the males. This winter, there has been an irruption of snowy owls, with the birds migrating in greater abundance and further south than during a typical migration. Snowy owls make low and slightly rasping hoots, hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo. These powerful hoots can often be heard up to seven miles across the tundra, which is pretty incredible. When in defense mode, snowy owls will often hiss, hoot, whistle or snap their beaks shut to make a clacking sound to scare off predators or to protect their nests.

Audio courtesy of Macaulay Library © Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Now seeing our owl roster do you think it’s safe to say that these owls deserve the title of #SuperbOwl? We sure think they do. Remember that these owls are cheering for their own teams and screaming at their opponents’ right along with you during the game.

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