Eagle-Owls spark vocal reaction in canines


A sound-recording project in Russia has revealed that calling Eurasian Eagle-Owls prompted vocal reactions from wild canids.

Vocal interactions between different predators are not unheard of, with different owl species known to react to one another's vocalisations, but a Russian ornithologist's findings document the much rarer phenomenon of acoustic communication between avian and mammalian predators.

Eurasian Eagle-Owl calls appeared to elicit vocal reactions from both Grey Wolf and Red Fox (Chris Hawes).

Similar cases are few and far between in the literature, but co-vocalisations between Great Horned Owl and Grey Wolf have been noted in Yellowstone National Park, while Tawny Owls in Iberia responded to wolf sounds with territorial calls.

With Eurasian Eagle-Owl and Grey Wolf both existing as apex predators and occupying a dominant position in the vocal hierachy in the forests of Eurasia, Alexey Andreychev of the Mordovian State University set out to document the vocal relationship between them.

Sound recorders were placed year-round in the Republic of Mordovia between 2016 and 2023, with the devices spaced between 4 km and 190 km apart. They were always positioned at the forest edge, which is favoured by eagle-owls, recording up to 140 hours of audio before being moved to a new position.

Within the resulting 82,000 hours of sound recordings, Andreychev identified eight cases of mammals co-vocalising with eagle-owls, as well as 21 instances involving other bird species, such as Ural Owl, Tengmalm's Owl and Hooded Crow.

Six of the mammal co-vocalisations involved domestic dogs, with one each relating to Grey Wolf and Red Fox. Some of the eagle-owls recorded were nesting in ravines close to settlements, increasing the chances of vocal interactions with dogs.

The vocal interaction between an eagle-owl and a wolf occurred just before midnight near the village of Purkaevo on 17 October 2016. The male owl prompted the wolf to howl for four minutes.

Andreychev said: "Probably the wolf entered into acoustic interaction with the eagle-owl under the influence of the latter on him as an irritant."

On 3 March 2020, an eagle-owl co-vocalised with a Red Fox for three minutes in the early evening. With no other fox calling, Andreychev believes the animal was responding directly to the owl. He does not consider the co-vocalisation of eagle-owls and dogs recorded by the devices to represent a vocal interaction.

Andreychev concluded that the wolf and fox were prompted into joint vocalisation with eagle-owls as both canids are social animals that are known to respond to sounds made by other animals and humans.



Andreychev, A. 2023. Vocal interaction between Eurasian Eagle-Owl (Bubo bubo) and canines (Carnivora, Canidae). Ornis Hungarica 31(2): 61-73. DOI: 10.2478/orhu-2023-0019