Sounds Wild


Download Episode: Owls (MP3 file 1,407 kB)



On a spring night, the call of a Northern saw whet owl echoes through the forest. Saw whet owls are one of about 10 owl species found in Alaska. While owls may not be readily seen, they can be heard, especially in the spring, and most of Alaska's owls can be identified by their distinct calls. Saw whets are tiny forest owls. They're quiet most of the year, as they are prey for larger owls. But in the spring they are quite vocal, and males can broadcast this one-note mating call for hours.

The western screech owl is has a call like a "bouncing ball," the hoots speed up over the course of the call. The owl's name is misleading as it isn't really known to screech. Like the Saw whet, it's a small forest owl found in Southeast and southcentral Alaska.

The boreal owl has a call similar in tone to the saw whet, but delivered in a run of about 12 notes then a pause, then repeated. As the name implies, Boreal owls are found in northern and interior Alaska.

Barred owls are newcomers to Alaska. They are close cousins to the spotted owl of the American west, and will hybridize with spotted owls. A century ago barred owls were found primarily in the American South, where they're known as hoot owls. But over the latter half of the 20th century they extended their range north and west. They were first documented in Southeast Alaska in the 1970s, and now they're relatively common. These territorial owls readily respond to "hooting" and will answer an imitated call.