Hear the Many Different Hoots of the Barred Owl

The increasingly common owl has more than a dozen calls, including one that sounds like a monkey.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of The National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.



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The emphatic hoots of a pair of Barred Owls resonate in the still of a February night. So-called for the stripes on their breast, Barred Owls are among the largest owls in North America. They're also the most vocal. Their signature hooting sequence has been memorably described as “who-cooks-for-you?! who-cooks-for-you-all?!”

But this is just one of more than a dozen Barred Owl calls, ranging from a “siren call” to a “wail” to a wonderfully entertaining “monkey call.” 

Although the Barred Owl’s calls have long been heard in Eastern forests, it is a relative newcomer to the western US. During the 20th Century, its breeding range has expanded into the North and the West, and down as far as northern California. 

The exact reasons behind the expansion aren't certain. But new riparian forests, fire suppression, and the planting of shelter-belts in the northern Great Plains are some of the human impacts that have likely played a role.   

No matter what accounts for the Barred Owl’s dramatic sweep across the continent, the bird – and its extraordinary voice – seem here to stay.

Learn more at birdnote.org.


Written by Bob Sundstrom

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Dominic Black

Narrator: Mary McCann

Call of the Barred Owl provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Orni-thology, Ithaca, New York. Barred Owl [105433] recorded by G.A. Keller

BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler

© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org  February 2017