Last updated: 29th September 2023
One significant difference between animals and humans is that animals cannot talk. However, this doesn’t mean that animals don’t make noise. Animals can be heard snapping, roaring, and howling to find food, navigate, and attract mates.
This list includes six extremely loud animals. While you may know that a whale can be louder than the sound of a jet engine, others on this list may surprise you.
1. Blue Whale
The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) which has already got the title of the world’s largest animal, is also equipped with a deafening cry that would be expected from an animal of its size. The call of these massive animals can reach up to 188 decibels. When you realize that a jet engine can reach 140 decibels, you realize how loud they are.
Blue whales and other North American whales can produce sounds and pulses heard from one thousand miles away. Recently, researchers have found that these animals have been reducing their call frequency over the last few years. This could be attributed to rising water temperatures, climate change, and ocean noise.
2. Snapping Shrimp
Snapping shrimps (Alpheus macrocheles) stun their prey by closing shut their two large claws at speeds up to 62 mph. This action leads to the formation of a giant air bubble. The air bubble makes an incredible sound when it pops with a sound up to 200 decibels which is loud enough for stunning or even killing their prey in some cases.
According to zoologists, when their bubble pops, it emits light due to the high pressure and temperature within the bubble. The accumulation of their sound in some parts of the ocean interferes with underwater research and communication.
3. Greater Bulldog Bat
Bats communicate through echolocation, which is very effective over shorter distances. The Greater Bulldog bat (Noctilio leporinus) uses echolocation while foraging for food or navigating. Greater Bulldog bats can emit sounds up to 137 decibels. This is louder than most rock concerts.
Echolocation is a fascinating ability used by bats, and it involves emitting low-frequency sounds. These sounds are intentionally produced at a frequency that prevents them from traveling effectively through the air over long distances. If you’ve always thought of bats as quiet creatures, these bats will definitely challenge that perception.
4. Mountain lions
Mountain lions (Puma concolor) called by various names like catamounts, pumas, or cougars, may appear regal when you watch them on your television screen. But the sounds they emit can send a chill down your spine.
When communicating, mountain lions make very little noise. They mostly sound like oversized house cats if you hear them communicating. But mountain lions can be extremely intimidating if you listen to them roar. In a study conducted by PLOS One in 2011, they found that cougars are equipped with flat and square vocal folds as opposed to humans. Because these folds are fat and elastic, it helps them strengthen the sound’s vibrations. The resulting roar can be as loud as 114 decibels.
5. North American Bullfrog
The North American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) is the loudest amphibian on the planet, producing sounds of up to 119 decibels. Both males and females can produce low-pitched sounds while the males will croak louder and more frequently to attract their mates. The situation gets louder during the mating season when the males form a group and indulge in a loud chorus.
The North American bullfrog’s vocal prowess is not merely about volume; it plays a crucial role in their reproductive success. Their distinctive calls serve as a means of communication and can convey information about the caller’s size, health, and vigor. A robust croak is a sign of a healthy and genetically fit bullfrog, making it a more attractive potential mate. The competition among males for the attention of females can be fierce, leading to an escalation in the volume and frequency of their calls.
6. Northern Elephant Seal
The Northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris) is an inhabitant of the eastern zone of the Pacific Ocean, capable of emitting sounds of up to 126 decibels. Their cry is very distinct, and it helps identify the group members. The tone they make is used for communicating different messages like a mother calling her offspring, mating sounds, or warning other members of any predators.
Elephant seals tend to communicate with each other in several ways. Male members threaten each other through snorting caused when they expel air through the proboscis. Female members emit an unpulsed call to attract the young and a pulsed cry when they feel threatened.
Cicadas are well-known for their deafening sounds, and North America is home to several species of these noisy insects. Among them, the periodical cicadas stand out for their remarkable life cycle. The most famous are the 17-year and 13-year cicadas, which emerge from the ground in enormous numbers at specific intervals. When these cicadas emerge, typically in the eastern and central parts of the United States, their collective calls create a deafening chorus that can reach sound levels of around 120 decibels.
they fill the air with a continuous, high-pitched, and incredibly loud buzzing or “singing” sound. Males create this noise to attract females, and the volume can be so intense that it can be heard for miles. Their synchronized mating calls can be heard across forests and woodland areas in the eastern United States.
8. American Alligator
The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is one of North America’s most iconic reptiles, known not only for its impressive size and formidable appearance but also for its vocal prowess. While not typically considered a vocal animal, the American alligator can produce loud, low-frequency bellows that are unmistakable and can reach impressive sound levels, often exceeding 90 decibels and potentially approaching or even surpassing 100 decibels.
The most common occasion for alligator vocalizations is during the breeding season, which typically occurs in late spring or early summer. Male alligators, called “bulls,” use these deep, resonant bellows to establish territory and attract females. These calls are distinctive and resemble a series of deep, rumbling roars. The volume and intensity of these calls can be startling, especially in the quiet wetlands and marshes where they dwell.
I had the chance to feed an alligator recently, and was shocked at how loud the sound of its jaws snapping was.
9. Eastern Screech Owl
The Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) despite its diminutive size, is a remarkable and vocally expressive bird of prey found throughout much of eastern North America. Its name can be somewhat misleading because its vocalizations are not limited to screeching. These small owls, measuring roughly 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 centimeters) in length, possess a diverse repertoire of calls that serve various purposes in their daily lives.
The Eastern Screech Owl is named for its haunting, high-pitched “screech” call, which it uses primarily for territory defense and communication with other owls of its kind. This call can be quite loud for a bird of its size, often reaching sound levels of around 90 decibels. In addition to the screech, they emit soft “whinny” calls, which are quieter but still distinctive and serve as contact calls between mates and family members.
10. Common Loon
The Common Loon is an iconic bird of North America’s northern lakes and waterways, celebrated for its striking appearance and haunting, echoing calls. These large, water-dwelling birds, measuring between 24 to 36 inches (61 to 91 centimeters) in length, are renowned for their vocalizations, which contribute to the serene, yet mysterious ambiance of remote northern wilderness areas.
The Common Loon’s most distinctive vocalization is its eerie wailing call, which resonates across tranquil lakes at dawn and dusk. The haunting quality of this call earned it the nickname “the cry of the wilderness.” These calls, often reaching sound levels of around 70 to 90 decibels, serve multiple purposes, including territory defense and mate communication.
Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.