Greater Sooty Owl

Sounds & Calls

Greater Sooty Owl (Tyto tenebricosa)

Greater Sooty Owl (Tyto tenebricosa)
Photo Credit: Imogen / Adobe Stock

The Greater Sooty Owl (Tyto tenebricosa) is a striking owl species found in the south-eastern forests of Australia and also throughout much of the island of New Guinea. Typical of the Tyto genus of owls (which includes the true barn owls, grass owls and masked owls) Greater Sooty Owls have heart-shaped facial discs with dark eyes.

Greater Sooty Owls favour tall, wet eucalypt forests and rely on the hollows of older trees for nesting and roosting. This species is strictly nocturnal and usually roosts in a tree hollow or amongst dense foliage during the day. They will also shelter in caves or under a rocky overhang. As a result of the clearing of old-growth forests, Greater Sooty Owl populations have been significantly fragmented and reduced. They are now listed as ‘vulnerable‘ in New South Wales, ‘threatened’ in Victoria and ‘rare’ in Queensland.

Greater Sooty Owls make a number of different vocalisations. The typical call is a short, descending screech which can sound like a whistle if heard from a distance. This call is often called the ‘falling-bomb whistle’. Heard up close, it sounds more like a shriek or scream. They also make a harsh scraping call, not unlike a Barn Owl. Another commonly heard call is a loud wavering, trill. While near the nest, softer chirruping calls can sometimes be heard.

Listen to Greater Sooty Owl Sounds

The following video contains a spectrogram visualization of a compilation of some of the audio recordings published below.


Greater Sooty Owl – Descending screech

 XC172214 This audio sample features the typical descending screech of the Greater Sooty Owl. It was recorded just after sunset while there was some light in the sky. The calls of Laughing Kookaburra can be heard in the background. Recorded at Jenolan Caves, New South Wales.


Greater Sooty Owl – Descending screech variation

 XC142439 This next recording captures a variation of the descending screech or ‘falling-bomb whistle’. Recorded in Wollemi National Park, New South Wales.


Greater Sooty Owl – Trilling

 XC115667 In this sample you can hear an example of the loud wavering, trilling call. Recorded in Royal National Park, New South Wales.

Typical Sooty Owl habitat

Tall, wet eucalypt forest – typical Greater Sooty Owl habitat