Tawny Owl calls and vocalizations (page 3)

Longer mp3 samples (in prep)


Wails, squeals and moans -- both sexes






Tawny wailing m&f (721.64 K)







Third part of clip 1 in full (1.34 Mb)





Female wail calls (717.15 K)

Male and female Tawny Owls sometimes come out with mournful-sounding wails and moans. As yet I have little idea what these mean. In the case of the female we seem to have another "regular" call -- i.e. one that is consistently made in the same way. This is shown in the third clip below.

Clip 1 has three sets of wailings made by a male (first part), a female and then a male (2nd part) and a female (3rd part). For the first part I'm indebted to Allan Haighton; in the last two parts you hear one of our own local pairs.

An obvious difference between the sexes is the pitch. Each sex makes wailing noises in much the same pitch as its main call -- respectively the hoot and the kewick. The female's call made after the Jackdaws includes sounds that are clearly related to her kewick.

Clip 2 is the third part of Clip 1 in full. It's just before dawn, and Jackdaws call nearby. The female launches into a "wail" call. Later in the clip her mate can be heard too. I don't think the Jackdaws had anything to do with the female's calls as she quite often makes the same call during the night. My female tawny does not make this type of call, so possibly it's one that's made by a paired female.

Clip 3: A regular female call? Here are three examples of our local female making the "wail" call on 5 August 2006 (from clip 2), and on 14 August and 10 September 2007.

Apologies for the quality -- my clips had to be amplified and filtered. They are from recordings made by leaving equipment running through the night. It's pure chance if the owls perform close by.

Tawny territorial fight




Foxes screaming

Fights: Another time you hear wailing and screaming is during fights. Here's a dominant male scrapping with what sounds like a juvenile male who's unwisely come into a corner of his territory. The attacking male flew over my head as I recorded this, with the scrap itself taking place above a stream, hence the change in ambience.

Not to be confused with screaming by another inhabitant of the woods — the fox. In this clip caterwauling by a couple of foxes attracts a female tawny who (with her mate) owns adjacent territory, and she adds her comments near the end.


Yelps -- mainly a female call?


Female yelping 980 kb 50 s

The female's yelp call is quite distinct from her kewick and seems to be made under different circumstances. I'm not at all sure what it means, but in some uses it may be an alarm call — e.g. when a fox is around. It's possible too that it may be used in an attempt to get chicks to fledge, as in this example. It's a highly shortened version of a long series of calls made by a mother owl over a period of at least 20 minutes. The interval between calls has been also been shortened. She started after feeding two chicks remaining in the nestbox. Another chick has fledged and is outside. The first yelps in the sequence are the very first she made, and the sequence ends with louder and more urgent-counding calls she was making from a different location 20 minutes later. She (I don't think it's the fledged chick) then makes some rather strange noises. I'm afraid I have no idea what was going on!

I haven't yet heard a male making yelp calls in this way. One hears single yelps from males, but I've yet to hear a long series like this.


That's it for the time being. More coming when there's time!

Nov 2007: I've just seen this excellent and comprehensive collection of Barred Owl calls, much along the lines of these Tawny Owl call pages. Recently made and put up, they're here: Barred Owl vocalizations. Recorded by Bob Pearson in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington. It seems the Barred Owls even do the branch crashing that tawnies do (that'll be put up here some time in examples of pair interaction at the nest), though vocally they sound as different as bassoon and flute.

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