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Things that go Woot in the Night

By che 17 November 2005 15

Have you ever gone to bed and been about to fall asleep when you hear something weird in the darkness? Last night the was a noise, a low noise, like a phone off the hook in another room, or aliens landing, a sound like woot, woot, woot, going for 10 seconds and then stopping, but even when it stopped there was the impression in my mind that I could still hear it.

Going out into the darkness I searched for the elusive sound that always seemed to dissappear and yet linger in the back of my mind. After thinking the neighbours might be undertaking nefarious deeds and listening for screams I noticed something high in a tree. Now I know marauding possums can make some very strange sounds but this was nothing like that.

Moving closer in the darkness I could see sitting above me that the beast was in fact a Southern Boobook Owl hooting and wooting out into the darkenss and when it stopped it was being answered by one or two other owls further away, explaining why I could hear it even when it stopped nearby.

Now the Biology, Conservation and Cultural Significance of Owls says that:

We could find no convincing evidence in the literature, or in a study of three pairs of Southern Boobooks observed over 529 nights in and near Aranda Bushland in Canberra, that Southern Boobooks duet.

But I say they are wrong, and that they are obviously using their melliflous voices to create a duet that is sending a signal over vast distances for their own dark needs.

What’s Your opinion?

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15 Responses to
Things that go Woot in the Night
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Chris 9:40 am 22 Nov 05

When I first arrived in Canberra almost 30 years ago I once heard the most awful heavy breathing outside my window – I was terrified and rang the police who turned up promptly (ah, those were the days) and shone torches all around the place finding nothing. Days later, when I told a neighbour,she said one word “Possums” (yes, they are heavy breathers when they’re right outside your window).

Samuel Gordon-Stewart 1:32 pm 17 Nov 05

From memory, a bird book told me that the Owl I saw was a Tyto Alba Common Barn Owl

Indi 1:28 pm 17 Nov 05

Didn’t realise we had so many birdwatchers on Riotact! The Kiwi bird (NZ) is one of the strangest birds I’ve encountered.

Thumper 12:36 pm 17 Nov 05

I get the odd owl in a tree next to my pergola. Its quite cute really although hard to see as they don’t move a hell of a lot.

Samuel Gordon-Stewart 12:33 pm 17 Nov 05

I had an owl sitting in a tree near my house for the better part of a day once, in the evening it appeared to get into an altercation with the local birds, I have a photo around here somewhere.

Slinky the Shocker 12:22 pm 17 Nov 05

Mr. Evil, that’d be a classic: “I negotiate Slinky’s workplace for a tawny frogmouth.”

ssanta 12:10 pm 17 Nov 05

The vineyards are using electronic bird scarers to keep the birds off the fruit at the moment. Though that sounds like a car alarm going adnauseum, and it is more likely to annoy a dog than a drunk bike rider che…

Mr Evil 11:43 am 17 Nov 05

You be careful Slinky, your boss might take advantage of the IR laws to make an example of you!

Slinky the Shocker 11:41 am 17 Nov 05

There’s a tawny frogmouth in my boss’ backyard which keeps him up at night. Unfortunately he told us about it, so we installed a looping soundfile on his work computer to drive him nuts 😉

Mr Evil 11:35 am 17 Nov 05

I like the ‘John Howard eyebrows’ on the Frogmouth!

Thumper 11:07 am 17 Nov 05

Frogmouths look like they’ve just been through the washing machine.

And they’re cool…

che 11:01 am 17 Nov 05

from your description X it may well have been a Tawny Frogmouth

Xanthomyza 10:53 am 17 Nov 05

Pics of boobooks and frogmouths here


Xanthomyza 10:48 am 17 Nov 05

There are two things you could have heard calling in the night.

The first is a Southern Boobook. This bird has a very distinctive two note call, with the second note being lower in pitch to the first. The words boobook and mopoke are onomatopoeic. Most people would have heard this at night.

What you may have heard is the territorial calling of a couple of males. This is common at this time of year and can go all night. I think the female’s call is higher in pitch than the male’s.

The second bird, from your description, may be a Tawny Frogmouth. This call is a low resonant pulsing oom-oom-oom which can repeated quite rapidly, as fast as twice a second, but usually a bit slower, for 10-30 second periods.

The Tawny Frogmouth is less well known and is heard less at night, but is not uncommon in Canberra. There’s a pair nesting in a tree on the eucalypt lawn in the botanic gardens.

If anyone is interested in hearing them, I have a couple of sound files of the two birds, but don’t have a host for download. Can RioACT host them (about 500kb each)?


Thumper 10:23 am 17 Nov 05

Mopokes are cool….

And yes they do call out…

“mopoke, mopoke”

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