Owls communicate using a variety of sounds. The sound depends upon the species of owl, and most species have multiple calls. The call of a species differs depending on distance and intent.

A common owl call heard in Eastern North America is that of the Eastern screech-owl. These owls produce a high descending whinny when defending territory or communicating over long distances. Communication between mates over short distances happens via a monotone trill, or bounce call. Great horned owls have a repertoire of barks and whistles, but their low, soft hoot is the most recognizable. They use this call to advertise territorial boundaries and communicate with mates. Young great horned owls produce a piercing shriek when begging for food. Barred owls communicate with an easily recognizable "Who cooks for you?" call. Pairs produce a comical array of hoots and cackles during courtship. Barn owls don't produce any sort of hooting call. Instead, these birds communicate with a series of eerie shrieks and screams. Mates also purr and squeak to one another at close distance. The tiny Northern saw-whet owl gets its name because its call is reminiscent of the sound of sharpening a blade. These owls toot, bark and whistle.