Both males and females sing. Their most common sounds are an even-pitched trill, often called a “bounce song” or tremolo; and a shrill, descending whinny. The tremolo is used by pairs or families to keep in touch and is 3–6 seconds long. The whinny is 0.5–2 seconds long and is used to defend territories. These two songs may be given one after the other. Mated pairs may sing to each other antiphonally, both day and night.
Among the Eastern Screech-Owl’s many calls are soft, low hoots; loud, sharp barking calls that indicate alarm or agitation; and, true to their name, screeches—typically given by adults defending nests or fledglings. A three- or four-note chuckle or rattle denotes annoyance, as when a bird is being mobbed.
Annoyed screech-owls make a clacking sound by snapping their bill mandibles together. Captured birds may hiss as part of a threat display.