Barred Owl Vocalizations

(With some Spotted Owl, Hybrid, Great Horned Owl, and Pygmy Owl calls, and a Northern Flying Squirrel)

 

Recorded and compiled by Bob Pearson 2005–2006 on the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington.  Most recordings by Bob Pearson were made with a Sony HI-MD Walkman MZ-RH10 and an Audio-Technica AT897 short condenser shotgun microphone. Fred Fiedler recorded the Spotted Owl vocalizations, and J. Fletcher recorded the hybrid owl.

[Last updated 04/19/07]

 

Barred Owl (Strix Varia)

 8-note | series | 1-note | whistle | whistle-screech | simultaneous calling | juvenile | variations | miscellaneous

Barred Owls have a variety of vocalizations that can be categorized according to certain characteristics (e.g., number and pattern of notes related to changes in pitch) that are consistently similar for individual owls (e.g., 8-note call). Individual owls may exhibit minor variations that are consistently repeated and allow unique identification, while other owls are so similar as to be virtually indistinguishable (to the human ear, at least). Most (probably all) Barred Owls have the capability to alter a standard call with a variation of that call. Many variations are similar between owls, while others appear to be unique to individual owls. Both sexes can have a gurgle sound applied to the last note of the 8-note, series, and the 1-note call. During bouts of simultaneous calling, a "cawing" quality is usually present. Some calls are heard almost exclusively by from one sex (e.g., female whistle), but it is likely that either sex is capable of doing any call. The following describes the call-types included here, states which sex is likely to give the call, and describes some of the more common variations to the call-types.

 

8-note call

(Compare to Spotted Owl 4-note call and Hybrid call)

[Both male and female] The call most associated with the Barred Owl, often described as "who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all." I have heard from 3-note (cooks for you-all) to 12-note (who cooks for you, who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all) versions of this call. Probably the most common variation is a 7-note call, with the 5th note excluded (who cooks for you, cooks for you-all). There are also variations in the pace of the notes (see track #3), and the pitch of individual notes (e.g., for some owls the first note is higher-pitched than the second note; for others the second note is higher-pitched). This call is also combined with the series call.

8-note—male

(01) Pair 023 male. (122kb) Record length: 0:06 sec. Owl distance: 20 meters. Date: 09/20/05 Time: 2255

Standard 8-note call with a pronounced gurgle.

(02) Pair 027 male. (107kb) Record length: 0:05 sec. Owl distance: 27 meters. Date: 07/25/05 Time: 2353

Standard 8-note call with a moderate gurgle.

(03) Pair 011 male. (89.3kb) Record length: 0:04 sec. Owl distance: 10 meters. Date: 07/24/05 Time: 0037

A slight variation of the 8-note call with a fast initial 4-note phrase, followed by a normal 4-note ending phrase. No gurgle.

 

8-note—female

(04) Pair 023 female. (120kb) Record length: 0:06 sec. Owl distance: 10 meters. Date: 07/22/05 Time: 0426

Standard 8-note call with a gurgle.

(05) Pair 074 female. (89.9kb) Record length: 0:09 sec. Owl distance: 24 meters. Date: 07/25/06 Time: 2359

Standard 8-note call with a gurgle. The male and a juvenile were also present. One minute later (with no calls between) she did a slurred version of the 8-note call (see Track 21).

(06) Pair 106 female. (110kb) Record length: 0:05 sec. Owl distance: 24 meters. Date: 07/18/06 Time: 0109

8-note call. The 8th note is abrupt for this female.

 

Series call

[Most often by the male] Series calls all have in common a series of notes that tend to rise slightly in pitch and increase slightly in amplitude throughout the duration of the call, ending with a note that descends in pitch, similar to the last note of the 8-note call. The number of notes is the main variable, and I have heard from 3 to 25 notes for this call. This call is also combined with the 8-note call.

series—male

(07) Pair 078 male. (215kb) Record length: 0:05 sec. Owl distance: 32 meters. Date: 07/17/06 Time: 0059

7-note series call with a gurgle.

(08) Pair 087 male. (214kb) Record length: 0:10 sec. Owl distance: 10 meters. Date: 07/23/05 Time: 2155

25-note series call with gurgle. This was the first call the owl gave (and the longest series call I’ve heard). He then settled down to 12- and 13-note calls.

series—female

(compare to female Spotted Owl agitated call)

(09) Pair 060 female. (170kb) Record length: 0:04 sec. Owl distance: 30 meters. Date: 07/25/06 Time: 2254

A 9-note series call with a slight gurgle. Two juveniles can also be heard, one very faintly at the beginning and one at the end, likely flying when it was calling, resulting in a wavering call.

(10) Pair 095 female. (61.1kb) Record length: 0:04 sec. Owl distance: 10 meters. Date: 07/05/05 Time: 0251

An 8-note series call with a minor variation of the first two notes being similar to the beginning of an 8-note call. No gurgle.

1-note call

[More often by the female] Similar to the last note of the 8-note call. The female tends to emphasize the beginning of the note compared to the male and sometimes punctuates the ending (see track #14). Being only one note, there is not much variation to this call.

1-note—male

(11) Pair 090 male. (50.5kb) Record length: 0:02 sec. Owl distance: 10 meters. Date: 08/01/06 Time: 0205

A 1-note call with a slight gurgle.

(12) Pair 027 male. (39.0kb) Record length: 0:02 sec. Owl distance: 27 meters. Date: 07/25/05 Time: 2353

A 1-note call with no gurgle.

1-note—female

(13) Huffaker Pvt. pair female. (65.4kb) Record length: 0:03 sec. Owl distance: 20 meters. Date: 09/14/05 Time: 0013

A 1-note call with a pronounced gurgle. Note the extended length of the call and the pronounced gurgle compared to the male 1-note calls

(14) Pair 004 female. (42.5kb) Record length: 0:03 sec. Owl distance: 15 meters. Date: 07/25/05 Time: 0011

A 1-note call with a gurgle and a sharp ending to the call compared to the Huffaker female.

 

Whistle—female

(Compare to female Spotted Owl whistle)

[Female] A single note that ascends sharply in pitch at the end of the note, usually in the presence of it’s mate or to call to it’s young. Similar to the female Spotted Owl whistle (can be very similar, maybe indistinguishable), it is usually lower in pitch, often raspy or even broken. The female Spotted Owl whistle tends to sound "pure" while the female Barred Owl whistle has more of a nasal quality.

 

(16) Pair 005 female. (153kb) Record length: 0:05 Owl distance: 40 meters. Date: 04/19/07 Time: 2318

The male flew in to the nest area; the female responded to his series calls with whistles.

 

Whistle-screech—female

(Compare to female Spotted Owl whistle)

 [Female] Similar to the whistle in that it ascends sharply in pitch, but much louder and intense than the whistle. It is sometimes repeated, sometimes combined with a note descending in pitch, and sometimes combined with a 4-note phrase similar to the last 4 notes of the 8-note call.

 

(17) Pair 085 female. (148kb) Record length: 0:03 sec. Owl distance: 50 meters Date: 10/24/06 Time: 2205

One whistle-screech. The female did the call twice and then did not call again.

 

(18) Pair 016 female. (128kb) Record length: 0:17 sec. Owl distance: 10 meters. Date: 08/24/05 Time: 0255

A whistle-screech variation. The female quit calling after this variation then did one more call 16 minutes later in the vicinity of the male.

 

Simultaneous Calling

[both male and female] Bouts of simultaneous calling can be very entertaining as both adults get excited and stimulated by the calls of the other. The bouts can include the standard calls, variations, bits and pieces of standard calls, and plain weird sounds. Bouts can be long, short or recurring. Often one of the adults (usually the male) will continue with one of the standard calls when the bout of simultaneous calling is completed. It is not a duet in the sense of calls being synchronized or dependent upon other calls.

 

(19) Pair 054 pair. (223kb) Record length: 0:29 sec. Owl distance: 25 meters. Date: 07/17/06 Time: 2242

The male gets excited and does 3-note calls in this segment of a longer bout of simultaneous calling.

 

Begging calls

Given by juveniles until they can perform adult vocalizations; virtually indistinguishable from Spotted Owl juveniles.

 

(20) Pair 113 – 3 juveniles. (274kb) Record length: 0:06 sec. Owl distance: 10–20 meters. Date: 07/31/06 Time: 0048

Begging calls from 3 juveniles. Two of the juveniles are clearly heard, and the third can be heard faintly once in the background.

 

Variations

Two types of variations are included here. The first is a variation in voice and the second is a variation where elements of two standard calls are combined into one call. For both of these examples, the owls also did standard versions of the calls during the same calling bout.

 

Female 8-note variations

(21) Pair 074 female. (232kb) Record length: 0:05 sec. Owl distance: 24 meters. Date: 07/25/06 Time: 2359

A slurred version of the 8-note call. This is the same female recorded for track #05 during the same calling bout. Notes 1 and 2 of the 8-note call are slurred together, notes 3 and 4 are also slurred together, note 5 is absent, and the last 2 notes are slurred together.

8-note / series variation—male

(22) Pair 110 male. (271kb) Record length: 0:29 sec. Owl distance: 5 meters. Date: 07/16/06 Time: 0040

Two variations on an 8-note/series combined call. He later traded standard 8-note calls with the female (see track #23).

 

Miscellaneous

Male 8-note / female 8-note exchange

(23) Pair 110 pair. (489kb) Record length: 0:31 sec. Owl distance: 20 (male) and >100 (female) meters. Date: 07/16/06 Time: 0040

8-note calls between the male and female of a pair. This male did the variations in track #22 prior to trading calls with the female.

Branch crashing

(24) Pair 087 male. (461kb) Record length: 0:31 sec. Owl distance 20 meters. Date: 07/23/05 Time: 2155

This appears to be the male crashing through the branches, but it could be the female as both were flying around. The male continues his series call in the middle of the bout as the branches are cracking.

 

Spotted Owl (Strix Occidentalis) (recorded with Fred Fiedler)

4-note call—male

(25) Pair 554 male. (211kb) Record length: 0:07 sec. Owl distance: 10 meters. Date: 08/06/00 Time: 2350

Standard 4-note call.

 

Whistle—female

(26) Pair 573 female. (212kb) Record length: 0:05 sec. Owl distance: 15 meters. Date: 08/07/00 Time: 0050

Agitated whistle calls by the female, with the ending emphasized. This is a more intense version of the standard contact whistle call by the female.

 

Agitated calls—female

(27) Pair 573 female. (214kb). Record length: 0:07 sec. Owl distance: 15 meters. Date: 08/07/00 Time: 0050

 An agitated call by the female during the same calling bout as the agitated whistles.

 

Barking calls—female

(28) Pair 573 female. (72.2kb). Record length: 0:02 sec. Owl distance: 35 meters. Date: 08/07/00 Time: 0050

Also called long-distance contact call. This call does not have a similar Barred Owl vocalization.

 

Hybrid Owl (Strix occidentalis X varia) (recorded with J. Fletcher)

 

(29) single adult, unknown sex. (83.8kb). Record length: 0:04 sec. Owl distance: 20 meters. Date: 08/04/98 Time: 0500

The result of a Barred and Spotted owl pair , sometimes called a "Sparred" owl.

 

Great Horned Owl (Bubo Virginianus)

(30) Two Great Horned Owl Males. (155kb) Record length: 0:07 sec. Owl distance: 10–40 meters. Date: 09/10/06 Time: 0027

Two Great Horned Owl males conduct a territorial boundary dispute using the standard contact calls.

 

Northern Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium Californicum)

(31) Pair. (185kb) Record length: 0:09 sec. Owl distance: 15–45 meters. Date: 09/16/05 Time: 0624

The male and female of a pair of Pygmy Owls each do a staccato series of calls, then each a 1-note toot.

 

Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys Sabrinus)

 (32) Northern flying squirrel (204kb) Record length: 0:03 sec. Squirrel distance: 10 meters. Date: 06/18/07 Time: 2334

A northern flying squirrel does an alarm call variant minutes after a male Barred Owl had left the vicinity.

 

Bob Pearson

Packwood, WA

rrpearson@centurytel.net