OwlCam Sound Library

The sound library provides links to Ward, June and the owlet's most frequently used calls. It also identifies the names used throughout OwlCam and lists some of the situations in which the calls are used. The names are my own and were selected to avoid confusion with textual descriptions found in reference books. This table will be updated and refined over time. Note that the long and complex sequences scattered throughout the OwlCam site are not repeated here. You can also see the owls using most of these calls in the context of a real life nesting season on the OwlCam DVD which is now available at Amazon.

Name

Uses

Classic Hoot(m) Classic Hoot(f)

Used by both male and female in many situations. Generally seeking a response from another barred owl. Standard conversation between barred owls. Female(f) about 20% higher in frequency than male(m) and with more accent on final note.

Abbreviated Classic(f)

Same as classic, but with four hoots on front end omitted. Often used as an initial response to the classic hoot and followed by full classic hoot.

Monkey Call  (hwu-hwu)

Most common sound during fall and winter nest inspection visits. Appeared to be asserting ownership. Also used by both male and female when excited, anticipating food, etc.

wail

Used by male to announce arrival at nest with food when meal is to be eaten inside nest. Classic hoot or monkey call used to call her outside for meal. Also used to announce arrival in other situations and occasionally in male-female duets. An almost pure descending tone.

whine

Used by female to call to owlets when she leaves them alone in nest and after they leave the nest to become branchers. Also used by female in nest when food runs out. Appears to be urging male to bring more food and is repeated endlessly on "hungry days". 

squeal

Used by female before and after receiving food at the nest. Also used at end of mating duet. Same structure as whine, but with steady ascent in fundamental frequency and pronounced second and third harmonics not present in whine. Intermediate versions which occasionally occur defy classification.

siren call

I have heard the "siren" sounds that start this sequence on only three occasions. All in the area of the nest box. I do not know whether it is coming from Ward or June. An almost pure tone ascending steadily from 650 to 1100 Hz.

chatter

 

Two weeks before the first egg hatched, the female started using it just after receiving food from male. Female repeated sequence many times while sitting on floor of nest with mouse in beak.

Galloping

Used routinely by female while feeding owlets. Happens while food is in her mouth and during transfer to owlets. Occasional variations resemble the chattering sound above. Sound and context lead me to speculate that it is associated with the transfer of fluids that supplement owlets digestive abilities.

egg cough

The female repeats this coughing sound at roughly five second intervals as she lays an egg. This same sound was recorded in both 1998 and 2000. It was independently verified in the same context in the entry below.

egg cough 2

This barred owl "egg cough" was recorded by the Wheats in Cardington, Ohio on March 21st 2008. It was made as the owl in their backyard nest box laid her first egg of the season and is virtually indistinguishable from the sound June makes while laying an egg.

Preening response

Second only to female's "Galloping" as the strangest nest box sound. The owlets make this noise when June is preening them.

peeping call

Used by owlet from the time it penetrates the shell. Variations used for duration of nesting period. Alerts adults to stockpile food and tells female when chick is ready for help cracking shell. Similar to adult female chatter, but clearly made by owlet.
wheeze (1day)

wheeze (10days)

wheeze (24days)

wheeze (30days)

wheeze (16weeks)

Sometimes called hissing. The owlets use this sound to beg for food and were doing so within twelve hours of hatching. Repeated at roughly five second interval and grows stronger as owlet matures. Also gains more of a whistling component as owlet matures. Sound at day 24days is similar to that used (with ever increasing volume and whistling component) through much of fledgling period. May be their only call during fledgling period. Sounds like it is evolving toward whining call by 16th week. Compare them.
Great Horned Owl This great horned owl can occasionally be heard calling from an area to the west of Ward and June's territory. It is the barred owl's most deadly enemy.

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