DEAR JOAN: We live about a mile from Mission San Jose, and sometimes I hear birds making a “hoo-hoo” call at around 1 or 2 a.m.
We were wondering if the calls are being made by owls, doves or pigeons? I found owl calls on the Internet and most were more like screeches and squawks than “hoo” sounds.
Could it be owls? I’ve never seen owls around the house but I have seen pigeons.
DEAR MARY: For those of us who grew up with cartoon owls that went “hoo, hoo, hoo,” hearing the real calls of owls can be a bit of a surprise.
The hoot owl — known formally as the barred owl — doesn’t hoot at all, but makes an “oo-aw” call with a long trill at the end. The Western screech owl doesn’t screech, but sounds a bit like a coyote yipping in the night. The barn owl screeches, though, with a piercing scream that makes one’s blood run cold.
The hoo-ing that you’re hearing could be from a dove or pigeon, although their calls tend to be softer and more of a coo than a hoo. Given that you hear the call in the wee hours of the morning when the doves and pigeons are safely tucked into their beds, chances are good that you are hearing the calls from great horned owls.
Both the male and female call out to each other. Their call is described as a “hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo.”
Owls are nocturnal, and many already are sitting on nests awaiting the arrival of owlets.
DEAR JOAN: We’ve seen a pair of large birds high in a sycamore tree nearby. They seem to be building a nest and checking out other birds that fly by. What kind of birds are they?
Bob, Bay Area
DEAR BOB: It appears you have a pair of nesting hawks, but I can’t tell what kind they are from your pictures.
Hawks will build a few nests in the area before deciding on one. When the female is ready to get serious, she’ll finish the chosen nest and lay her eggs. Both mom and pop will take turns sitting on the eggs, although mom spends the most time on the nest and usually takes the night shift.
DEAR JOAN: I read your column regarding peafowls. In it you mentioned how people are annoyed by wild turkeys.
Half of each year I live in rural New Hampshire, where ticks are an ever-increasing problem because many carry Lyme disease. The average wild turkey eats thousands of ticks a day, so they are a real benefit.
We have flocks of wild turkeys roaming through the woods, and when they occasionally have to cross the road, we all just slow down and let them, because they are doing us all a favor by their choice of bugs.
Carol Zink, Holderness, New Hampshire and Redwood City
DEAR CAROL: All creatures provide benefits to us if we just take the time to think about, observe them and learn.
DEAR JOAN:I have to disagree with you about rats not making thumping sounds in the attic. When we had rats in our attic 15 years ago, it would sometimes sound like a couple of large cats were having a wrestling match up there and tossing each other around. There was no insulation on the wooden floor of the attic to buffer the noise.
Linda Brown, Antioch
DEAR LINDA: Sounds like sumo rats, and nobody wants those in their attic.
Who is doing all that hooting in the wee hours of the morning?