Meet 2 Doves That Sound Like Owls (With Pictures)

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The sound of an owl hooting is a familiar one, but what if you heard that same sound coming from a dove?

It may sound like a trick of the ears. There are two dove species in North America – the mourning dove and the band-tailed pigeon. These two species of doves have calls that are often mistaken for owls.

Dove Songs: Gentle Coos or More?

Doves have long been recognized for their soothing and melodic coos. These calls play a crucial role in communication, attracting mates, and defining territory.

But there is a twist in this tale that often goes unnoticed—a handful of dove species possess calls that bear an uncanny resemblance to the hoots of owls.

Owls After Dark: Hoots in the Night

Owls are known for their mysterious and haunting calls, which can be heard echoing through the night forest.

These hoots serve as territorial declarations and help owls locate each other in the dark.

While the contrast between doves’ daytime coos and owls’ nighttime hoots may seem stark, nature has a way of surprising us.

Doves That Sound Like Owls

Let’s zero in on the dove species that blur the lines between cooing and hooting:

1. Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove
image: Mourning Dove

The Mimicry Master is Known for its mournful coo. The mourning dove occasionally surprises us with a coo that carries a deeper resonance.

A sound that could easily be mistaken for an owl’s hoot. This gentle mimicry adds a layer of complexity to the bird’s vocal repertoire.

2. Band-tailed pigeon

Band-tailed Pigeon
image: Band-tailed Pigeon

This pigeon is found in western North America. It has a deep, hooting call that is similar to that of an owl.

The male band-tailed pigeon’s call is a series of descending “coo-coo-coo” notes, while the female’s call is a single, low “coo.”

Why the Resemblance?

What drives certain doves to imitate the calls of owls? While each species’ vocalizations are uniquely shaped by their environment and purpose, factors like habitat and individual variation contribute to these unexpected vocal twists.

Telling Them Apart: Dove or Owl?

Distinguishing between dove coos and owl hoots might seem challenging, but there are clues hidden within the sounds:

1. Pitch and Tone: Pay attention to the pitch and tone of the call. Doves tend to have softer, more melodious notes, while owls have a distinct rhythm to their hoots.

2. Timing: Consider the time of day. Doves are more active during daylight hours, while owls come alive at night.

Whispered Stories of Birders

Birdwatchers can enjoy the wonders of nature through sound. Their stories bring to life the enchantment of the natural world, reminding us of the beauty that awaits those who listen closely.


Nature continually challenges our assumptions and leaves us in awe. The convergence of dove and owl calls offers a glimpse into the rich complexity of bird vocalizations. As we embrace these mysteries, let’s remember to listen carefully to the whispers of the natural world—where even the coo of a dove can carry the echoes of an owl’s hoot.

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