My New Book


Great Horned Owl Barking

I had a meeting at The Raptor Center yesterday.  At the end, we got a brief tour, which despite having given hundreds in the past, I was excited to do because it’s been about 3 years since I volunteered there and things change quickly.  Many of the birds I worked with are still there…as in the turkey vulture who like me is 37  years old.

But because it’s owl breeding season, the great horned owls were all very hooty in the courtyard.  One of the imprinted owls (a bird raised by people and imprinted on them) gives a strange sound for an adult.  It barks.  This is a sound usually given by immature birds and is associated with food begging.  In the wild they would grow out of that.  But imprints do it a lot.  I think this is a sound people hear quite a bit in the wild at night and since it is such an un owl like sound, it’s hard to id.

Here’s a video (with a really dramatic title sequence courtesy of Non Birding Bill):

4 comments to Great Horned Owl Barking

  • Interesting article, how about doing an article of all the different species of owls?

    Just a suggestion

  • Last year on the Ellis Owl Farm Nest Cam I used to hear the female great horned owl adult do that whenever she wanted the male to hurry up and bring food–which was every day! She would get really loud if it was taking too the long for him to show up.

  • Human imprinted owls do retain a “begging call” as this owl is doing. But squawking similar to this is also a normal vocalization for both male and female adult Great Horned Owls, even though it is fairly uncommon most of the year. As Meghan said, this type of sound is frequently given by adult females at the nest site, seemingly both to encourage the male to bring food, and also as a contact call with the young in the nest when the female is away from the nest. Adults can also give double noted squawks (most often heard by the female when a nest bander is climbing the tree, but also in other contexts), and 3-4 note squawks. This are quite uncommon vocalizations, and they hardest ones for me to understand in my vocal study on the species.

  • Here’s a video of a non-releasable pair of breeding Great Horned Owls, held under permit as part of my vocal study on the species. They were injured as adults, so are not imprinted on humans. The females is the one squawking, and the male is hooting.