There are some birdwatchers who don’t give a hoot about bird sounds. However, when night-time comes around and all you can see is poorly defined shapes, silhouettes or the anomalous hand in front of your face, how are you going to identify birds? There are only five regular British owls, so there is no excuse for not learning some of their most common calls. Only Tawny Owls do the long wavering hoots. They also have a ‘keevick ’ call. Little Owls have a series of almost Tawny-like yelps. Long-eared Owls have soft short hoots, deep in the male and rather more like a Collared Dove flight-call in the female. Short-eared Owls also have repeated clipped hoots, as well as rather Lapwing-like contact calls. Both eared species also perform wing-claps as part of their displays. Finally, Barn Owls have disturbing, worrying, prolonged witch-like screeches which give them their old ‘screech owl’ name.
An owl in a wood at night. Shape and habitat give some indication that this is a Tawny Owl. Sound is the best, most reliable evidence