What Birds Sound Like An Owl? Interesting Facts

Did you hear the characteristic hoot of an owl in your apartment and figured it couldn’t possibly be an owl? You’re most probably right, its some other bird. But what birds sound like an owl? Let’s find out

Owls are known for their hooting sounds but also make other noises, like screams while asking for food from their mothers or defending their territory.

They also whistle and shriek, hiss, coo, and cry. They are nocturnal birds, and you will rarely find them in urban habitats. 

Their sounds are often confused with other bird calls, mainly those who are nocturnal, such as Nightjars.

But if you are a bird enthusiast, you can tell the difference between owls and other types of birds through the time at which they do it and the pattern of their sound.

In this article, we will look at some of these birds and how you can differentiate between them and owls.


What Birds Sound Like An Owl


Mourning Dove

Mourning doves are common residents of areas such as Mexico, the United States, Central America, and some parts of Canada

They also live in crowded cities like Manhattan, inside small ventilation cubicles of skyscrapers.

People who live in such places might get confused hearing an owl hoot in the daytime or loud hooting noises throughout the day!

The truth is that, more often than not, it’s a bunch of mourning doves instead of an owl.

How To Tell An Owl Call From A Mourning Dove Call?

It is nearly impossible to differentiate between the calls of the two birds. One thing you will notice is that mourning doves often start with a long or short “coo” sound rather than a “woo” sound like an owl hoot. 

Other things that can tell you that you are listening to a mourning dove are that they hoot during the day and in groups.

Owls generally like to live alone, except for their mating season, so it is quite rare to find a bunch of them hanging around your building in a busy city during day time!


What Birds Sound Like An Owl


Western Nightjar

Nightjars are a family of birds whose call is similar to that of an owl. The main confusion arises because both species of birds are nocturnal.

It takes an expert’s ear to tell whether the call is of a western nightjar or that of an owl. One of the ways to know if it’s the call of nightjar is by focusing on duration. 

Nightjars are chirpy and would continue hooting for hours, while owls are never that loud or persistent.

The western nightjars, also known as common-poorwills, are often heard whistling in the night.


A whip-poor-will also comes under the family of Nightjars.

It is a common resident of North America, yet you might never have seen one as it has brown and grey colors that camouflage it in tree trunks. It got its name from the distinct pattern of its call. 

You can hear them more often than see them. Their quavering call is a common characteristic on summer nights in the central part of the US.


What Birds Sound Like An Owl


Steller’s Jay

A steller’s jays’ call could be confused with that of a barn owl.

Unlike other subspecies of owls, barn owls reside mostly in abandoned buildings and do not hoot or whine but rather make calls that sound like a long screech. 

Steller’s jays, common in North America, have a similar screechy call. You can set their calls apart in two ways:

Firstly, you can hear steller’s jay during the daytime, and secondly, barn owls have a huskier voice than steller’s jays. 

Common Nighthawk

The nighthawk is an American bird that falls under the family of nightjars. Nightjars are famous for making hooting noises similar to owls. 

A nighthawk’s call could be distinguished from an owl by the pattern of the call. Their call involves a nasal piping sound (known as a peent).


What Birds Sound Like An Owl



A chuck-will’s-widow is another bird from the nightjar family whose nocturnal cooing is often confused with the hooting of a night owl. 

The bird is a common visitor to the southeastern areas of the United States. They are less often found in cities and are residents of pine wood trees and forested areas. Their call is similar to others in their family, like western and eastern nightjars. 

Wilson’s Snipe

The Wilson’s Snipe is a common visitor of Nothern America, especially during their mating season. During migration, they also visit the Southern part of the United States and Central America. 

Their call is sharp and very different from that of an owl. But you might get fooled by the call of a male Wilson’s snipe that he uses to attract females. What you might think of an owl’s hoot could be the winnowing sound of its feathers.  


What Birds Sound Like An Owl


Tawny Frogmouth

Tawny frogmouths belong to the genus of Strigoides, which means “owl-like.” This nocturnal genus of birds looks similar to owls and is often confused with them. 

They are native species of the Australian mainland, but you can see them throughout the continent.

Although they look like an owl, their call is similar to a boobook’s call. They are not very chatty; they only hiss and buzz in the presence of a predator. 

Band-Tailed Pigeon

Close relatives of Chilean pigeons, the band-tail pigeons are native residents of North and South America.

The male of the species makes a deep, hooting sound at a low volume that is difficult to distinguish from an owl’s hoot.

However, unlike owls, male pigeons do not usually call during the night. 

Rock Pigeon

Rock pigeons, also known as rock doves, are domesticated birds found worldwide, but their ancestors originated in Europe and Asia. 

Their calls are different from that of an owl. When they feel threatened by predators, they make a grunting sound similar to that of an owl.

But sometimes, their deep coos with strutting and bowing sounds could confuse you. 


What Birds Sound Like An Owl


Other Doves

A hooting coo is a common characteristic of all species of the dove family.

However, the sound is easy to distinguish from that of an owl for anyone who has heard owls before.

Doves, apart from the mourning dove and rock dove, sometimes make noises similar to an owl’s hoot. 

Doves reside in crowded places, whereas owls need silent places like forests or abandoned buildings. Moreover, owls are nocturnal, while doves are diurnal. 

Frequently Asked Question

What bird makes a hoo hoo hoo sound?

The great horned owls are famous for their deep stuttering hoo hoo hoo sounds. 

What birds are mistaken for owls?

The mourning dove’s songs are commonly mistaken for an owl’s call. A tawny frogmouth is also mistaken for an owl because of their similar appearance. 
Many other birds, such as nighthawk, stellar jay, pigeons, etc., are often mistaken for an owl due to their similar sounding hoots and coos.

What animal makes a weird noise at night?

Nocturnal animals like rats, lizards, raccoons, owls, coyotes, snakes, etc., are active during the night. These animals perform their daily life rituals such as hunting, mating, and nesting all at night. 
All of them are accustomed to making weird noises to alarm others in their family or to attract their counterparts because sound might be the only way for them to communicate at night.

What owls sound like “who cooks for you”?

Barred owls make a 9-note call which often sounds like “Who cooks for you?”


Wrap Up

Owls have a deep, stuttering hoot that you can hear during the night in abandoned places or far from bustling population centers.

It is difficult to differentiate their hoot from those of birds belonging to the Nightjar family since they, too, are nocturnal. 

An owl’s hoot is also similar to that of doves, especially that of a mourning dove.

However, if you hear an owl hooting during the day, chances are that it’s a mourning dove.

The population of these beautiful birds, such as the northern pygmy-owl, the eastern screech-owl, and various other species, is declining at a steady pace.

According to studies, the Northern spotted owl population has decreased by about 75 percent since 1995. 

There may come a time when we might never hear their hoots again. We should make our best efforts to protect them from extinction.

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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