Owls are distinctive among other birds for many features. Their unique appearance and nocturnal habits set them apart from other raptors, and the sounds they make are unlike those of other predators. Although the sound of an owl is uncommon, other birds make similar sounds that may be mistaken for those of an owl by the untrained ear.

The Trademark Sound of an Owl

The trademark "hoo hoo" sound is attributed to the great horned owl.

There are many different types of owl, and these are capable of a variety of sounds. Certain owls may whistle, hiss, click or chatter. Some owls make a barking or creaking sound and one can even replicate the sound of a rattlesnake. Others make other noises specific to their actions, needs or environments. A hungry owl snaps its beak and hisses. A female spotted owl whistles softly when leaving or returning to the nest. The hooting sound, which we commonly associate with all owls, is made by the great horned owl.


Cockatiels have a wide vocal range, which includes cooing sounds.

A hooting or cooing sound is among the noises made by cockatiels in captivity. Cockatiels' vocal range varies widely between individual birds and is influenced in part by the sounds the birds hear when they are young. Birds raised in captivity often learn to mimic the tone and inflections used by their human captors or to whistle simple tunes, and they will coo to express needs or moods, such as hunger or readiness to mate.

Mourning Doves

The coo of a mourning dove is long and drawn out.

Mourning doves produce a low, mournful cooing sound that may be mistaken for an owl's hoot, with one notable difference. The mourning dove is active during the day, and is vocal in the morning or afternoon. Owls, however, are nocturnal. They are most vocal at night when they hunt and socialize. Other types of doves, such as spotted doves and ringneck doves, also make a similarly distinctive cooing noise that can be mistaken for the hoot of an owl.


Pigeons make a louder coo when danger is nearby.

While larger, pigeons share many similarities with doves. Roosting pigeons at rest will coo, either alone or in groups. Males use the cooing sound to attract mates or to defend their territories from other males, and groups of pigeons may contain several males that coo at each other in this manner. In urban environments where pigeons often congregate, the sound of a pigeon can easily be mistaken for that of an owl.