Saturday, September 23, 2023

What is the bird that goes hoo hoo hoo? (With bird song recordings!)

Did you hear an owl hoot? Or did you hear a dove coo?

Both birds give a song that can sound like hoo hoo hoo.

In this article I describe several birds that give cooing or hooting calls.

I also describe their calls and provide links to a bird song website where you can listen to these calls right now. 

Birds that call hoo hoo hoo include: 

  • Mourning Dove
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove
  • Barred Owl
  • White-winged Dove
  • Greater Roadrunner

I list these birds in order that most people in North America are likely to hear them. This depends, of course, on exactly where you live.

Mourning Dove

Photo of Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove. Greg Gillson

Named for their mournful cooing song, Mourning Doves are common across the United States and southern Canada.

Their long pointed tails identify them.

The song of these birds reminds me of the lazy summer days of my childhood.

The song starts with a rising mellow: Coo-HOO, then a softer and lower hoo, hoo, hoo.

If you hear a song of hoo hoo hoo or coo coo coo during the daytime, March to August, this bird should be your first guess as to the singer.

Listen to Mourning Dove song (link to Xeno-Canto web site)

Great Horned Owl

Photo of Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl. Greg Gillson

You may hear people call these Hoot Owls. Of course, people may also call other owls hoot owls, too.

If you hear a hoo hoo hoo at night, then it is an owl and not a dove. They call more frequently as their breeding season starts in winter and early spring. But you can hear them during foggy days, mornings, or if they are startled by loud noises.

These are big birds, the size of Red-tailed Hawks. They have erect facial plumes that give them their name. They live throughout North America.

Males and females call in duets, sometimes, with the female higher in pitch. The pattern is such: HOO, hoo-HOO, hoo, hoo.

Listen to Great Horned Owl song (link to Xeno-Canto web site)

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Photo of Eurasian Collared-Dove
Eurasian Collared-Dove. Greg Gillson

These big pigeons invaded North America in the 1980s via Florida. They are now found abundantly throughout North America, though least common in the Northeastern States and adjacent eastern Canada.

These birds are "coffee with cream" colored, with a black hind neck collar. They are often found in large noisy flocks.

Their song is a loud cooing with a distinctive pattern: coo-COO, cook.

Listen to Eurasian Collared-Dove song (link to Xeno-Canto web site)

Barred Owl

Photo of Barred Owl
Barred Owl. mpmochrie from Pixabay

These are fairly large owls found in Eastern hardwood forests, especially the swamps of the Southeast. They occur in the northern Rocky Mountains, and recently (since the 1980s) invaded into the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

While they often call at night, you are quite likely to see this large owl with the big round head during the daytime, too.

Their loud hooting call series sounds very much like: Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?

Listen to Barred Owl song (link to Xeno-Canto web site)

White-winged Dove

Photo of White-winged Dove
White-winged Dove. Greg Gillson

These doves are bigger than Mourning Doves, but smaller than domestic pigeons. They are similar to Eurasian Collared-Doves, with their square tails. But the big white wing patches in flight and perched are always obvious.

These birds are found in summer from Texas to California. They are the birds primarily responsible for pollinating saguaro cacti in Arizona.

If you hear the "Who cooks for you-all?" call of Barred Owl in the desert, then you are hearing the song of White-winged Dove! They have a long song with slurred cooing phrases and a long final coo.

Listen to White-winged Dove song (link to Xeno-Canto web site)

Greater Roadrunner

Photo of Greater Roadrunner
Greater Roadrunner. Greg Gillson

Roadrunners are desert and grassland birds found from Texas to California. 

These are larger birds, the size of chickens or pheasants.

As a member of the cuckoo family they have low cooing songs. These are often given at dawn.

The song is a deep slow series of downward slurring coos: coo-coo-coo-coo-coooooo.

Listen to Greater Roadrunner song (link to Xeno-Canto web site)

Was your bird call here? Let me know in the comments!


Are Roadrunners REAL birds?

Attracting Mourning Doves

Bird houses for Great Horned Owls

Bird houses for Barred Owls

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