Owl Calls – Greater Sooty Owl (Tyto tenebricosa)

The Greater Sooty Owl (Tyto tenebricosa) is a medium to large owl found in the south-eastern forests of Australia and also in the montane forests of Papua 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 spends the daytime hiding in a tree hollow or dense foliage,. They will also roost in caves or under a rocky overhang. As a result of the clearing of old-growth forests, Greater Sooty Owl populations have been 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 Calls

XC172214 This first 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.

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

XC115667 In this final sample you can hear an example of the loud wavering, trilling call.

Typical Sooty Owl habitat

Tall, wet eucalypt forest – typical Greater Sooty Owl habitat

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