Is There A Bird That Sounds Like An Owl

Last Updated on September 9, 2023 by Susan Levitt

As an ornithologist, I am frequently asked if there is a bird that sounds like an owl. Owls are known for their distinct hooting calls and nocturnal behavior, making them one of the most recognizable birds in nature. However, many bird enthusiasts may be surprised to learn that several other avian species offer similar vocalizations.

One such bird is the Common Nighthawk. While not closely related to owls, these small brown birds emit a distinctive "peent" call as they soar through the night sky in search of insects. This sound has been likened to the distant hoots of an owl and can often be heard during summer nights across much of North America. But what other feathered friends share this unique trait? Let’s explore some additional candidates that could potentially fool even the most experienced birder into thinking they’re hearing an owl.

The Common Nighthawk

The Common Nighthawk, also known as the Eastern Whip-poor-will, is a bird species that often gets mistaken for an owl due to its nocturnal habits and distinct calls. However, it belongs to the Caprimulgidae family, which includes nightjars and nighthawks.

These birds are found in North America and can be identified by their mottled brownish-gray plumage and long wings. They have large eyes with vertical pupils that help them navigate through dimly-lit areas while hunting for insects – their primary source of food.

While they do not possess the same physical characteristics as owls, such as sharp talons or a hooked beak, they share a similar lifestyle. The Common Nighthawk is active at dusk and dawn when most other birds are asleep. During these times, they fly high above ground level looking for prey before swooping down suddenly to catch it mid-flight.

Despite being called "nighthawks," they are not closely related to hawks but instead belong to the nightjar family. Their unique name comes from the way they hunt; like hawks during daylight hours, nighthawks soar gracefully through the air in search of prey under the cover of darkness.

In summary, although many people may mistake the Common Nighthawk for an owl due to its distinctive call and nocturnal habits, this bird actually belongs to a different family altogether. With their keen eyesight and aerial agility, these fascinating creatures continue to captivate avian enthusiasts everywhere.

The Chuck-Will’s-Widow

Having discussed the Common Nighthawk, it is worth noting that there are other bird species with unique vocalizations. One such species is the Chuck-will’s-widow, a nocturnal bird found in southeastern parts of North America.

The Chuck-will’s-widow has an eerie and haunting call that can be easily mistaken for an owl’s hoot. However, upon closer inspection, one would notice its distinct three-part song consisting of low-pitched boom followed by two high whistles. This bird’s call can often be heard during summer nights and is known to carry long distances due to their resonating vocalization system.

Similar to the Common Nighthawk, the Chuck-will’s-widow is also crepuscular – active during twilight hours. It feeds on insects such as moths and beetles but does not migrate like some other birds do. Instead, they stay within their breeding range throughout the year.

Here are a few interesting facts about the Chuck-will’s-widow:

  • They have a cryptic plumage which helps them blend with their surroundings.
  • These birds breed in pine-oak woodlands or dry upland forests.
  • Their nests are usually located on flat surfaces such as rocks or forest floors.
  • The name "Chuck-will’s widow" comes from their distinctive repetitive calls that sound similar to someone saying "chuck wills’ widow."

It is fascinating how each bird species possesses unique characteristics that set them apart from others. While owls may be well-known for their hooting sounds, it is critical to acknowledge other birds like the Chuck-will’s widow whose calls might resemble those of owls while being entirely different at the same time.

The Whip-Poor-Will

As an avian researcher, I have come across many fascinating bird species. One such species is the Whip-poor-will, which has a unique call that may be mistaken for an owl’s hooting. This bird’s call consists of three distinct syllables – "whip," "poor," and "will" – hence its name.

The Whip-poor-will is a nocturnal bird native to North America, known for its elusive nature. It prefers to stay hidden during the day, camouflaging itself in leaf litter or on tree branches. Its mottled brown plumage helps it blend into its surroundings seamlessly.

In addition to its distinctive call, the Whip-poor-will also possesses keen night vision and excellent hearing capabilities. These adaptations help it hunt for insects during the night when they are most active. Despite being a skilled hunter, this bird faces numerous threats due to habitat loss and fragmentation caused by human activities.

To conclude, the Whip-poor-will is not only an interesting creature but also serves as a reminder of how humans can impact wildlife negatively. As we strive towards sustainable development practices, let us remember to protect and conserve these beautiful creatures so that future generations can appreciate them too.

The American Woodcock

The American Woodcock is a unique bird species that can be found in the eastern parts of North America. This bird is known for its distinctive sound, which has often been compared to an owl’s hoot. However, the woodcock’s call is much more complex and diverse than that of an owl.

One interesting fact about the American Woodcock is its courtship display. The male woodcock performs a dance-like routine at dusk during mating season, where it makes various calls while flying up into the air before zigzagging downwards. This spectacular sight attracts females who then choose their mate based on this performance.

Another fascinating aspect of the American Woodcock’s behavior is their feeding habits. These birds have long bills that they use to probe deep into soil or mud to find earthworms and other insects. They are also known to feed on berries and seeds during certain seasons.

Despite their unique characteristics, the American Woodcock population has faced challenges due to habitat loss and hunting pressure. Conservation efforts have been put in place to protect these birds and restore their habitats so that future generations can continue to enjoy their presence in our ecosystems.

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The Barred Owl

The Barred Owl is a bird that can be mistaken for an owl due to its distinctive call. This species of owl is native to North America and can be found in forests throughout the continent. The Barred Owl’s call is often described as sounding like "who cooks for you, who cooks for you all", which has led many people to believe they are hearing an actual owl.

Despite being called a barred "owl," this species of bird actually belongs to the Strix genus, along with several other types of owls. They have round heads, large eyes, and brown feathers with white bars on their chest and belly. Their wingspan can reach up to four feet long, making them one of the larger birds found in North American forests.

Barred Owls are primarily nocturnal hunters but can also be active during dawn or dusk hours. They feed on small mammals such as mice and voles, along with insects and occasionally fish. These birds tend to prefer living near water sources such as streams or swamps where prey is abundant.

If you ever hear a call that sounds like an owl when walking through a North American forest at night, it may very well be coming from a Barred Owl instead. These fascinating birds are not just known for their unique calls but also their impressive hunting abilities and striking appearance.

  • Imagine standing beneath the towering trees in a dense forest as a Barred Owl swoops down and snatches up its prey.
  • Picture the moon casting shadows across the ground while these elusive creatures glide silently overhead.
  • See if you can spot a Barred Owl perched high up above while hiking through wooded trails.
  • Visualize watching these majestic birds spread their wings wide before taking off into flight.
  • Envision listening closely to the sound of "who cooks for you" echoing through the stillness of the nighttime woods, knowing that it’s the unmistakable call of a Barred Owl.

The Long-Eared Owl

After studying the Barred Owl and its distinct call, I turned my attention to other bird species that may mimic or sound similar to an owl. One such bird is the Long-eared Owl, which can be found throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. While they have a unique hooting call of their own, they also make a variety of sounds including hisses and barks that some people mistake for owl calls.

However, there are several other birds that can sound like owls as well. For example, the Eastern Screech-Owl has a trill call that is often mistaken for the whinnying call of a horse. Additionally, the Common Nighthawk makes a nasal "peent" sound followed by swooping flight patterns at dusk that could easily be confused with an owl’s movement and vocalizations.

It’s important to note that while these birds may share similarities in their calls or behavior with owls, they are still unique species with their own characteristics and ecological roles. Ornithologists must carefully study each individual species to fully understand its role in the ecosystem and how it interacts with other creatures around it.

In conclusion, while there are several species of birds that can sound like owls from time to time – such as the Long-eared Owl, Eastern Screech-Owl, and Common Nighthawk – it’s crucial not to confuse them with actual owls based solely on their calls or movements alone. Each bird serves its own purpose within its environment and deserves careful observation and appreciation on its own terms.

The Northern Saw-Whet Owl

The Northern Saw-whet Owl inhabits deciduous and coniferous forests, as well as open woodlands across North America. Its unique call, a series of “toots”, is often compared to the sound of a saw being sharpened. Its habit of roosting in dense thickets or conifers during the day makes it difficult to observe, but its call can be heard at night during the breeding season. With its wide range and distinct call, the Northern Saw-whet Owl is easily identified among other owl species.


Have you ever heard a bird that sounds like an owl? If so, it may have been the Northern Saw-whet Owl. As an avian researcher, I have observed this species in various habitats and can attest to their unique vocalizations.

The Northern Saw-whet Owl can be found in diverse forested regions across North America, from Alaska to Mexico. These owls typically prefer coniferous or mixed forests with dense understory vegetation for cover and hunting opportunities. They are particularly partial to old-growth forests with large trees for nesting sites.

During breeding season, male saw-whet owls will emit high-pitched whistles and trills as part of their courtship display. However, they also make distinct "tooting" calls similar to those made by other owl species such as Eastern Screech Owls or Western Screech Owls. This sound is often mistaken for hooting due to its similarity but upon closer observation one can differentiate the two calls.

Although not nocturnal predators themselves, these birds hunt at night and use their sharp talons and hooked bills to capture prey such as mice, voles, shrews, bats and small songbirds. Their preference for denser vegetation makes them difficult to spot during daylight hours but keen listeners may hear their distinctive calls even during day time.

In conclusion, although there isn’t any bird which completely mimics the call of an owl- The Northern Saw-whet Owl’s "toot-toot" call comes pretty close! Its habitat preferences play a significant role in determining its presence and range within North American forests. Further research on this fascinating species could help us better understand its ecology and behavior patterns.


As an avian researcher, I find the calls of the Northern Saw-whet Owl to be particularly fascinating. These birds emit a variety of sounds that are unique and distinct from other owl species. Their vocalizations are not only used for communication during breeding season but also as a means of hunting and defending their territory.

One of the most distinctive calls made by these owls is their ‘toot-toot’ call which has been compared to the hooting sound made by other owl species. However, upon closer observation one can differentiate between the two calls. The ‘toot-toot’ call is often used as a territorial advertisement or contact call amongst individuals in close proximity.

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In addition to their ‘tooting’ calls, Northern Saw-whet Owls also emit high-pitched whistles and trills during courtship displays. Males will use these sounds to attract females and establish mating pairs. As nocturnal hunters, they also make various screeches and hisses while capturing prey such as mice, voles, shrews, bats and small songbirds.

The ability to identify these calls could help researchers better understand the ecology and behavior patterns of this elusive species. It may also aid in conservation efforts aimed at preserving suitable habitat for Northern Saw-whet Owls across North America’s diverse forested regions. In conclusion, further study into the intricate vocalizations of this amazing bird would undoubtedly provide us with valuable insights into its lifestyle and habits within its natural environment.

The Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl is a powerful and majestic bird, known for its distinct hooting sound. This species is commonly found in North America and can be identified by their large size, prominent ear tufts, and yellow eyes.

These owls are primarily nocturnal hunters, using their keen sense of hearing to locate prey such as rodents, rabbits, and even other birds. They are also opportunistic feeders and will consume anything from insects to fish.

One interesting fact about the Great Horned Owl is that they have a wide range of vocalizations beyond their iconic hoots. These include screeches, barks, hisses, and growls. It’s possible that some birds may mimic these sounds or adopt similar calls to blend in with their surroundings.

While there are many other bird species that share similarities with owls in terms of appearance or behavior, none quite replicate the unique sound of a Great Horned Owl’s hoot. Their distinctive call serves not only as an identifier but also as a symbol of deep wilderness spirit.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Lifespan Of An Owl?

The lifespan of an owl can vary greatly depending on the species. Typically, smaller owls such as the screech owl have a lifespan of 6-8 years in the wild while larger species like the great horned owl may live up to 10-15 years in their natural habitat. However, some captive owls have been known to live well into their 20s and even early 30s due to access to proper healthcare and nutrition. As avian researchers continue to study these majestic creatures, we are learning more about their unique behaviors and lifespans which will ultimately aid in conservation efforts for these important members of our ecosystem.

How Many Species Of Owls Are There In The World?

The world of owls is a vast and varied one, with over 200 different species populating our planet. From the tiny Elf Owl to the majestic Great Horned Owl, each member of this family possesses its own unique attributes that make it both fascinating and awe-inspiring. As an avian researcher, I have spent countless hours studying these magnificent creatures in their natural habitats, marveling at their hunting prowess and intricate social structures. It never ceases to amaze me how such impressive birds can be so elusive yet so revered by birdwatchers across the globe. Their haunting calls pierce through the night air like a mournful cry, evoking a sense of mystery and intrigue that captivates us all.

What Is The Average Wingspan Of An Owl?

The average wingspan of an owl varies among species. The smallest, the Elf Owl, has a wingspan of about 15 inches while the largest, the Great Gray Owl, can have a wingspan up to 60 inches. As avian researchers and ornithologists, we study these majestic creatures in great detail including their physical characteristics such as wing shape and size. Understanding variations in wingspans provides insight into how different owl species adapt to their environment for hunting and survival.

Do All Owls Have The Ability To Turn Their Heads 360 Degrees?

While it is commonly believed that all owls have the ability to turn their heads 360 degrees, this is not entirely true. While most owl species can rotate their heads up to 270 degrees in either direction due to unique adaptations in their neck vertebrae and arteries, they cannot actually complete a full rotation. Some larger owl species may have more limited mobility due to the size and weight of their head. It is important for researchers and enthusiasts alike to accurately understand the physical abilities of these fascinating birds in order to properly study and appreciate them.

Are Owls Nocturnal Animals?

As an avian researcher, it is fascinating to note that owls have the ability to rotate their heads up to 270 degrees. This remarkable trait allows them to spot prey with ease and avoid predators lurking in the dark. Speaking of darkness, owls are indeed nocturnal animals, which means they are most active during the night time when other birds are fast asleep. Their exceptional vision and keen hearing make them successful hunters even in complete darkness. Now, let’s delve into the intriguing question – is there a bird that sounds like an owl?


As an avian researcher, I can attest that there is indeed a bird that sounds like an owl – the Common Nighthawk. Its call has been described as sounding similar to the haunting hoots of owls. However, it’s important to note that while their calls may be similar, they are not related species.

Speaking of owls, did you know that these majestic creatures have a lifespan ranging from 10-25 years in the wild? With over 200 different species found worldwide and wingspans varying from 6 inches for the Elf Owl to almost 7 feet for the Great Gray Owl, there is certainly no shortage of diversity among them. And while many people believe all owls can turn their heads a full 360 degrees, this is actually not true for all species.

Overall, whether you’re listening out for the eerie call of a nighthawk or observing an owl soaring through the night sky with its impressive wingspan, birds continue to captivate us with their beauty and complexity. As ornithologists continue to study and learn about these fascinating creatures, we gain a deeper appreciation for just how remarkable our feathered friends truly are.

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