Night Squeals

photo of Barred Owl © Wil HershbergerDuring my first recording expedition to Florida in 1988, my buddy Ted and I camped in a low area next to a small river and were delighted when a pair of Barred Owls paid us a visit in the dark of the night. We managed to get some nice recordings as they hooted back-and-forth in a pine tree overhead, but those were the days before we began using soundscape microphones to capture the full dimensional experience. Since that first expedition, I have returned to Florida many times and recorded many Barred Owl visitations. Sometimes I think that owls are friendlier down there. It certainly seems so because about every time I camp out in a Florida swamp, the owls come visit me!

One of my favorite Barred Owl recordings is from Ocala National Forest in central Florida. I canoed down a river to a likely spot and set up camp. To my delight, when darkness arrived, I heard the squeal of a young owl (its begging call) not far from my tent. I set up my microphone and waited. A little before midnight the parents finally arrived, hooting in the distance and then up close. When they finally fed their “little one,” he screamed with considerable delight before receiving his mouthful of ecstasy (I think he got fed, but maybe not; see bottom of post):

Barred Owls hooting, Pig Frogs croaking, and an immature owl periodically giving begging sqeuals. 11:30pm, 5 June 1994, Ocala National Forest north of Orlando, Florida. Lang Elliott.

Pretty nice, huh? I’ve shortened the recording somewhat so you can hear a good deal of the hooting and squealing. I rather like those Pig Frogs; they were sounding off from the river’s edge. The insect chorus brightens the recording … it’s not too loud is it?

As for the little one being fed, I must point out that it was pitch black and I didn’t actually see anything. But his loud and animated squeals indicate something important happened there, which I presume was him being fed by one or the other of his parents. But how could they feed him when they’re both hootin-it-up? Does anybody out there have an explanation? (Gerrit, if you’re listening, please chime in)


  1. This reminds me of when my children were young and we had just moved to a place nestled in a wooded area. The barred owls would come together and have long conversations. I told my children they were wood spirits talking their own language. As you can imagine they were facinated. I don’t think we ever heard the cry of young but we certainly heard many other calls. Those frogs are interesting too. I have never heard them before. The Peepers are gearing up here. Exciting to hear.

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