11 of the Loudest Animals on Earth

They howl, snap, call, and roar to navigate, find food, and attract mates.

world's loudest animals include lions and monkeys and frogs

Treehugger / Hilary Allison

The world's loudest animals call, roar, snap, and howl when they're looking for food, mates, or just trying to find their way home. There's a whale that's louder than a jet engine, a shrimp that can stun prey with its sound, and a monkey that can be heard a remarkable three miles away.

Here's a look at some of the animals on land, sea, and in the skies that make the most ear-piercing sounds.

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Blue Whale

Blue Whale Feeding
Blue whale calls can be heard up to 1,000 miles away. LPETTET / Getty Images

The blue whale, the largest animal ever known to exist on Earth, has an impressive call to go with its massive size. The call of a blue whale reaches 188 decibels – louder than a roaring jet engine's ear-piercing 140 decibels. They make pulses, groans, and moans that can be heard up to 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) away. Researchers have found that blue whales have been lowering the frequency of their calls over the last several years. Climate change, warmer waters, and ocean noise could be to blame.

Listen to the blue whale on the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory.

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Sperm Whale

Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus)
Sperm whales communicate at a lower frequency and intensity than blue whales. Reinhard Dirscherl / Getty Images

Although blue whales are considered by most to be the loudest animals, there are many ways to measure loudness. At pure decibels, the sperm whale is louder than the blue whale because its clicks have been recorded at 230 decibels. Sperm whales communicate at a lower frequency and a lower intensity than blue whales, and their clicks last for very short bursts. They’re often out of the human-hearing threshold. Research has found that sperm whales seem to speak in distinct dialects.

Listen to the sperm whale on Ocean Conservation Research.

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Snapping Shrimp

Modest snapping shrimp, side view
The snapping shrimp can stun or kill its prey with sound. RibeirodosSantos / Getty Images

Primarily found in coral reefs and oyster reefs, snapping shrimp (also known as pistol shrimp) stun their prey by closing the larger of their two claws shut at a speed of about 62 mph (100 kph). That action forms a giant air bubble that makes a loud snapping sound when popped. As loud as 200 decibels, the sound is enough to stun or even kill the shrimp’s prey.

Listen to the snapping shrimp on Ocean Conservation Research.

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Howler Monkey

Red Howler Monkey Alpha Male
Male howler monkeys have throat anatomy that helps them be loud. DC_Colombia / Getty Images

Named for their unmistakable cries, howler monkeys are the largest of all New World monkeys. When several howlers start yelling at dusk or dawn, they often can be heard as far as three miles away, telling other monkeys to stay away. Male monkeys have large throats and shell-shaped vocal chambers that give them the ideal anatomy for sound. Their howls have been recorded at 140 decibels.

Listen to the howler monkey on the University of Michigan's Animal Diversity Web.

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Bulldog Bat

greater bulldog bat
The greater bulldog bat uses echolocation for navigation and to find food.

 Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

When bats navigate and forage for food, they use high-pitched calls and echoes. This echolocation helps them, but only within a short distance. Researchers figured that bats with higher-frequency calls would cover greater distances with their louder cries. In a 2008 study published in PLOS One, researchers found that the lesser bulldog bat (Noctilio albiventris) and greater bulldog bat (Noctilio leporinus) reached 137 decibels and an estimated 140 decibels. Bats also make low-pitched calls to let other bats know they're around to avoid collisions when hunting.

Listen to bats and watch how they hunt on Discovery.

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kakapo strigops habroptilus endemic. new zealand
The kakapo is the world's largest parrot. Robin Bush / Getty Images

The world’s largest parrot is also the loudest bird. The critically endangered bird has a varied vocabulary that includes squawking and braying sounds. The male kakapo emits a sonic boom-like noise during breeding season. Then, after 20 to 30 loud booms, it makes a high-pitched metallic “ching” call. The loud booms can reach 132 decibels. This boom-ching pattern can go on continuously for up to eight hours every night for two to three months.

Listen to the kakapo on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library.

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Close-Up Of Lion Roaring On Field At Rhino And Lion Nature Reserve
A lion's roar typically lasts as long as 90 seconds. Mark Chilton / EyeEm / Getty Images

The king of the jungle can be pretty intimidating when he roars. In a 2011 study in PLOS One, researchers found that these big cats have flat, square focal folds. (By comparison, humans and many other animals have triangular folds, or vocal cords.) The folds are very elastic and fatty, allowing them strength and flexibility as they vibrate. A lion can roar as loud as 114 decibels, and typically lasts as long as 90 seconds.

Listen to the lion on the British Library's sound collection.

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A male Arachnoscelis arachnoides seen in lateral view.
A male Arachnoscelis arachnoides seen in lateral view.

Natasha Mhatre

A recently rediscovered species of bushcricket has a calling song as loud as a chainsaw that males use to attract females. Researchers found that the male katydid (bushcricket Arachnoscelis arachnoides) sings at about 74 kHz, using “stridulation,” where one wing acts as a scraper rubbing against a row of teeth-like grooves on another wing. The movement results in high sound levels of about 110 decibels.

Listen to the bushcricket via the University of Lincoln.

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Interesting nocturnal Oilbird or Guacharo (Steatornis caripensis) in dark cave, bird nesting on rock in its natural environment, Trinidad island, adventure in caribbean nature, endangered species
Oilbirds nest in dark caves. Jiri Hrebicek / Getty Images

This nocturnal bird, known as the guácharo in its native South America, uses echolocation to navigate in its dark cave home. In studies, researchers measured their clicks as high as 100 decibels. Unlike the calls of bats, the oilbirds’ sounds are within the range of human hearing, points out National Geographic, and can be nearly deafening when large groups of the birds come home to roost.

Listen to the oilbird on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library.

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Water Boatman

The water boatman (Sigara lateralis) captured under water
The water boatman's call can be heard by humans on the other side of a pond. phototrip / Getty Images

Relative to their size, water boatmen are the loudest animal on Earth, says Australian Geographic. They’re also the only ones that make their deafening noises using their sex organs. The calling song produced by the male water boatman (Micronecta scholtzi) is made when it rubs its genitals across a ridge on its abdominal segment. The result is a 99 decibel sound that can be heard by humans on the other side of a pond.

Listen to the water boatman on the British Library's sound collection.

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Common Coqui Frog

Eleutherodactylus Coqui Frog
The common coqui frog keeps people awake in Hawaii. Kevin Schafer / Getty Images

Coquis are small tree frogs that are named after the male’s loud “ko-KEE” call. Males often respond to the first part of the call, while females are attracted to the second. The frogs are a problem in Hawaii, where they have no natural enemies and have reached populations over 10,000 per acre in some areas. Their calls are as loud as 80 to 90 decibels, compared to a lawnmower, and have caused restless nights for residents and tourists.

Listen to the coqui on Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk.

View Article Sources
  1. Surlykke, Annemarie, and Elisabeth K. V. Kalko. "Echolocating Bats Cry Out Loud To Detect Their Prey.PLOS One, vol 3, no. 4, 2008, p. e2036. Public Library Of Science (Plos), doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002036

  2. Klemuk, Sarah A. et al. "Adapted To Roar: Functional Morphology Of Tiger And Lion Vocal Folds." PLOS One, vol 6, no. 11, 2011, p. e27029. Public Library Of Science (Plos), doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0027029

  3. Chivers, Benedict et al. "Ultrasonic Reverse Stridulation In The Spider-Like Katydid Arachnoscelis (Orthoptera: Listrosceledinae).Bioacoustics, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 67-77. Informa UK Limited, 2013, doi:10.1080/09524622.2013.816639

  4. Brinkløv, Signe et al. "Oilbirds Produce Echolocation Signals Beyond Their Best Hearing Range And Adjust Signal Design To Natural Light Conditions."Royal Society Open Science, vol 4, no. 5, p. 170255,The Royal Society, 2017, doi:10.1098/rsos.170255

  5. Sueur, Jérôme et al. "So Small, So Loud: Extremely High Sound Pressure Level From A Pygmy Aquatic Insect (Corixidae, Micronectinae).PLOS One, vol. 6, no. 6, 2011, p. e21089. Public Library Of Science (Plos), doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021089

  6. "Coqui Information." Hawaii Department of Agriculture, 2020 .