Graeme Chapman - natural history photographer - ornithologist

Bird calls / bird song
Barking Owl

Much has been speculated about the so-called "screaming woman" call of the Barking Owl - certainly one of the scarier nocturnal sounds of the Australian bush. I have heard Barking Owls calling many times over the years, mainly in northern Australia where they are common, but oddly I've never heard the screaming woman call. So far as I know, in northern Australia, nor has anyone else. The only recording that I know of was made by Ed McNabb at Chiltern, Victoria 0n 12 January 1982 and you can hear this on his CD "Nightlife of Australia - S. E. Forests" NPCD-06 available via You can also hear it on the WWW at My sample 246-99 is another "screaming woman" sound, in this case of courting Red Foxes which I made in Perth W.A. many years ago. To me, this is a really scary sound. Barking Owls are fairly rare in southern Australia whereas foxes are common and the likelihood is that most reports of screaming woman sounds in southern regions are actually of foxes rather than owls. Sample 246-02 is of a pair of Barking Owls at Lake Nuga Nuga in Queensland. Note the difference in pitch between the two - the female being the higher pitched. Just prior to this, these two birds combined in an impressive alternating (antiphonal) duet, gradually getting faster and faster. This is a heavily filtered recording to remove the incessant din of hordes of crickets. Listen carefully towards the end for a distant Boobook Owl. Samples 246-04 to 06 are all of the same bird recorded near Eulo in Queensland. They present a few variations in loudness and pitch. In sample 06 the owl is answering another bird in the distance.

246-99 Barking Owl/ Fox
246-02 Barking Owl 206-230
246-04 Barking Owl 144-350
246-05 Barking Owl 144-375
246-06 Barking Owl 144-400

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