What's That Sound? 7 Wildlife Calls You Might Hear in Your Backyard

7 common wildlife calls in your backyard

Treehugger / Catherine Song

Squirrels, pigeons and the occasional raccoon or opossum are about the extent of the backyard wildlife most of us encounter. They're familiar sights around the neighborhood, and we're used to the sounds they make as they coo, screech and chatter. But have you ever awoken in the middle of the night to a wild sound you couldn't place?

As human development expands, wild animals are moving into urban and suburban areas in search of food and shelter, and although we might not see them, we often hear the evidence of their presence. We've rounded up videos that capture the hoots, screeches and other wild calls of several animals that are finding their way into our backyards.

Which ones have you heard in your neighborhood?


Red and grey foxes are well-adapted to urban life, and they're not dangerous to humans unless they're rabid, which is very rare. However, the animals have been known to prey on small animals, including cats, rabbits and chickens. If you've seen or heard foxes in your neighborhood, the Humane Society has several tips for how you can peacefully coexist with the animals.

Barred Owl

These owls live in old-growth forests, so researchers were surprised to discover that barred owls are thriving in Charlotte, North Carolina's largest city. Scientists assumed that the large raptors would struggle to survive in urban settings, but they've proved just as resilient in cities as they have in the wild.


Coyotes are thriving in urban areas across the U.S. They've been spotted in New York's Central Park, 3,000 coyote sightings are reported in Atlanta annually, and it's estimated that 2,000 of the animals live in the Chicago metro area. Experts say the presence of coyotes in cities sets the stage for larger predators like wolves, mountain lions and bears.

Red-Tailed Hawk

These birds of prey are found throughout the United States, and while they prefer open areas and deserts, they've adapted to a variety of landscapes, including human habitats. If you hear this distinctive screech, look up and you might spot a red-tailed hawk in a tree or perched upon a telephone pole.

Mountain Lion

You don't expect to see one of these large cats roaming a suburban neighborhood, but reports of mountain lions in yards and city streets are popping up from Colorado to Connecticut. The animals have extremely large territories and can roam more than 20 miles a day in search of food or mates. Mountain lions don't always sounds like the screaming female in the video above. Another video filmed in Colorado and shown below shows a juvenile mountain lion making noises that are much softer. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, cougars make a sound like a bird chirping when they are communicating with each other.


During the summer, you'll hear this insect's distinctive humming and clicking sounds, which have been known to reach 120 decibels.


Bobcats are found throughout the United States, and residents of states like Arizona and California are accustomed to seeing the cats napping on their porches or in their yards. The animals, whose cries have been described as sounding like crying babies, are usually harmless; however, these creatures can be a danger to outdoor pets.