The 20 Most Unique Bird Calls from Around the World

Male Dusky Grouse strutting during mating season, displaying his red air sacs. Taken in Yellowstone National Park. Green grassy background.
© Diane Isabel/Shutterstock.com

Written by Jessica Keyes

Updated: December 7, 2023

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These are 20 of the most unique bird calls from around the world. You might hear local bird calls around you every day depending where you live. It’s time to open up your senses and hear what other sounds the birds can bring. A nice conglomeration of sound are available with the writing so you can see and hear what is making that “noise”. Challenge yourself and close your eyes when listening and see if you would know its a bird. The visual is the proof. Most of these birds not only have an individual bird call unique to their specific kind, but also a beautiful array of color and size variations.

Humans have tiny “air sacs” called alveoli at the end of each bronchiole. It is where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide happens. Birds are very different. The biological makeup of a bird’s air sacs (they have 9 in total) generally provide cushioning to the birds’ bodies while diving into water for obtaining food, allow birds to alter their buoyancy to help in flotation while swimming and help a bird while flying. The most unique bird sounds we will focus on today are due to their air sacs. It maintains a continuous unidirectional airflow through a bird’s lungs. The particular pressure of air in the air sac is also heavily involved in song production.

A conglomeration of bird calls with special sound that is unique.

1. Capuchinbird (Perissocephalus tricolor)

Capuchinbirds can be found in Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, and Venezuela. It’s natural habitat it lives in is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.  It is visually striking with it’s bald head and feather layden body, with a very distinct call as well. The males have a lower-pitched voice, while females are higher. The male during breeding season inflates the air sacs around its neck, and makes a loud buzzing ‘grrrraaaaaaaoooooooooooooo’ sound.

The sounds of the Emu low-pitched and unforgettable.

2. Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae)

Emu is a fascinating bird endemic to Australia. It is the second tallest living bird after the ostrich at 5.7 feet. The bird is brown, flightless and makes a low pitched sound like slow steady beat. Without seeing the visual it would be hard to know it was a bird.

Is that a dog? No- It is a Barking owl.

3. Barking Owl (Ninox connivens)

Barking Owls are found in parts of Australia and New Guinea woodlands. This medium sized (15-17 inches long with a wing span of 33 and 47 inches) owl is hard to ignore. The most commonly heard call of the Barking Owl is a double note ‘woof-woof‘, which sounds quite similar to a dog’s bark. Male and female often duet with the male making the lower-pitched call and the female the higher notes.

4. Brown Sicklebill (Epimachus meteri)

Brown Sicklebirds are residents of New Guinea and live in forest areas. This small bird produces a sharp sounding noise in consistent spurts that makes you feel as if on a construction site. The battering call is a unique bird call in this world that can’t be matched, but can be a noisy neighbor from a nearby forest.

Close your eyes and listen. Yes, it is a bird.

5. Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius)

Southern Cassowary is just one of several species in the Casuariidae family and live in New Guinea. Along with a lifespan of 18-20 years in the wild, these large flightless and high jumpers (7 feet off the ground) have a highly special quality. The cassowary’s helmet-like casque is made of keratin, the same material that makes up our hair and fingernails. If your looking for a baritone this is it, and the casque contributes to their low grunting noise.

Southern cassowary is walking. It is a large flightless black bird. It is one of the three living species of cassowary, also is a ratite and therefore related to the emu, ostriches, rheas and kiwis

The Southern

cassowary

has an impressive casque which helps it make a unique sound.

©Danny Ye/Shutterstock.com

6. Go-Away (Corythaixoides concolar)

One of Africa’s smaller unique birds. The Go-Away bird has an impressive feathery crown and their call sounds like they are saying ‘go away-go-away‘, and make a ‘kuh-wê‘ alarm call in response to predators.

A birds says the strangest things if your in the “most unique bird call” category.

7. Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae)

There is nothing funny about this bird until you here its call. This pint-sized bird is native to woodlands and open forests in Australia.  The Laughing Kookaburra keeps the same territory year-round, and when you hear them “laugh” it is used to signal their territory to other birds with their distinctive call.

8. Great Potoo (Nyctibius grandis)

Home is Central and South America where there is plenty of humid to semi-humid forested habitats. This usually solitary creature may look similar to an owl, but is not related. This monogamous (staying with 1 partner throughout life) bird has an ominous moaning and guttural growl. If you hear ‘bwawrrr, bwawrrru‘, or an abrupt ‘bawr-bü’ on your walk it is just them.

9. Common Eider (Somateria mollissima)

The Common Eider is a large sea-duck that lives mainly in marine waters, near the rocky seacoasts in Europe, North America and Siberia. Breeding males are mostly white (top), black (bottom) and have pale green on the nape (back of neck) that stands out during breeding season.  Common Eiders are quite vocal and males frequently give pleasant cooing calls. Females give a low ‘gog-gog-gog‘ when feeding or responding to male courtship displays. Both sexes give a harsh grating ‘kor-korr-korr‘.

The Willow Grouse is beautiful and as unique as it call.

10. Willow Grouse (Lagopus lagopus)

Willow Grouse inhabit a wide range of primarily sub-alpine and subarctic zones countries and are known for their feathered feet and toes. The Willow Grouse has an unusual call that some say sounds partially like a chicken.

Some birds are unrecognizable without a tweet, and you may not know it was a bird!

11. Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes)

The Black-footed Albatross is spread throughout the southern hemisphere. The albatross is one of the largest seabirds on Earth, and this one has a lifespan of 12-40 years with a wingspan of up to three and a half meters.  The unique call of this bird ranges vocally from shrieks, squeals, whistles, and groans. This bird even quacks while courting.

Capercaillie have a very distinctive plumage and call.

12. Western Capercalillie (Tetan urogallus)

Western Capercaillie call home to most parts of Northern Europe and Northern Asia in coniferous forests. They have feathered legs to protect against the cold and a unique sound. When first hear their call you may think of a single rock plunking in a can.

The sound of a Dusky Grouse and its exadurated air sacs.

13. Dusky Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus)

Dusky Grouse reside in the inland regions of the Western United States and Canada. The large males have purplish air sacs in the neck and red eye combs that they show off for the brown highly camouflaged females. Without visually seeing them, one would think a pig was grunting.

Male Greater-sage grouse (sage hen) (Centrocercus urophasianus) calls for the ladies from his snow-covered sagebrush lek with his spectacular breeding display in the Eastern Idaho plains.

Male Greater-sage grouse (sage hen) (

Centrocercus urophasianus

) calls for the ladies using his air sacs.

©Breezy Bird Photography/Shutterstock.com

14. Black-throated Loon (Gavia arctica)

Black-throated Loons are migratory aquatic birds found in the Northern Hemisphere. Their black and white plumage is secondary to their call. Song phrases consist of a series of powerful, resonant plaintive cries with syllables ‘co clooo-eee, co clooo-eee, co clooo-eee’ rising in pitch . This particular species of Loon also makes a range of other odd sounds. These sounds include a hoarse grunting ‘karr’ call, mournful cries and harsh quacking notes.

15. American Bittern (Bottarus lentiginosus)

The American Bittern live in the United States and Canada. This bird is considered a wading bird in the heron family. If you are visiting the freshwater wetlands you may hear a distinctive loud booming ‘unk-a-chunk, unk-a-chunk‘ call that sounds like a machine.

16. Montezuma Oropendola (Psarocolius Montezuma)

The Montezuma bird lives in southern Mexico to central Panama. These fruit-eating birds are colonial breeders and females build hanging woven nests of 24–71 inch long fibers and vines that is up to 30 meters high. Males will aggressively protect their home and have a unique high-pitched symphonic sound. They also make barking ‘ar‘ or ‘aow‘ calls.

A Cory’s shearwater bird call is an assortment of sounds!

17. Cory’s Shearwater (Calonetris borealis)

Cory’s shearwater birds are prevalent in the Atlantic. This large bird has a 44-50 inch wing span and a 18-22 inch length. Their call includes a distinctive assortment of braying, wailing, and hooting ‘aha -aha-aha-a’ calls.  

Atlantic Puffins have bright beaks and large communities.

18. Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula arctica)

The Atlantic Puffin is the official bird of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. It has a life span of 30 years and sports magnificent plumage. They are black on top and white on bottom black, with bills that have a color pronounced orange and yellow only during breeding season. While on land, males often give a “pig-like grunt” while flicking their head back to attract a female. 

The Lyrebird can mimic almost any sound.

19. The Lyrebird

The Lyrebird calls home to areas of the rainforest in Victoria, New South Wales, and south-east Queensland. This bird is also found in Tasmania where it was introduced in the 19th century. More than just a beautiful tail, it is able to mimic almost any man-made-sound. It imitates other birds and has its own beautiful song.

There are a variety of Hornbill in Malaysia, but each has their own sound.

20. Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri)

A quick “Hornbill Spotlight”. Hornbill are found in tropical and subtropical Africa, Asia and Melanesia. This unique bird has a 20 year lifespan in the wild and a large casque (hollow or spongy structure made out of keratin). It is believed that this structure acts as a vibrating chamber to make the Hornbill’s voice louder. Unfortunately, this casque makes it poachers’ prey, especially in Asia. The call ranges from booming sounds as they begin foraging to brays, toots, bellows, and cackles. Malaysia is home to 10 species.


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About the Author

Jessica Keyes writes for A-Z Animals. Primarily covers small animals and nature. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1999 from Fairfield University. She more recently finished working as an Associate short-term in a local pet store during the Covid downturn. During her time there she was able to explore animal behaviors more in-depth, best overall practices and honed her skills with multiple animals maintained and sold daily. She has guinea pigs hamsters, a dog and fish. (Many of which were obtained from her time at the pet store, with no regrets!) In everything she does, there is always a soft spot for nature and animals. Jessica currently lives in Troutman NC. She is a 12+ year virtual assistant, motivational author, blog/article writer and youth development advocate. A member of the local Chamber of Commerce and Toastmasters International.

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