I have made several recordings of coyotes yipping. These recordings are not the classical howls we all know about, rather they are of a very high pitched barking — it has a violin smoothness or purity of sound. The barking has intent, is very intense, and is distressed sounding. Except when howling at sirens, every episode of barking that I have heard was the result of a coyote having been chased or intruded upon on some level by a dog. Howling and yipping which results from having been chased by a dog is easy to recognize. A less obvious cause of the barking may be an antagonistic dog which simply come too close to the coyote without actually chasing it.
And now I’m seeing coyotes react to individual specific dogs walking about 100 feet away. These are usually dogs which have chased or intruded on the coyote in the past. But also, I’m seeing that a coyote will feel intruded upon if specific dogs “eye” the coyote on its perch — possibly in an antagonistic way — something like giving the coyote “the evil eye”. In addition to the complaining and standing up for itself which I’ve seen when a dog actually chases it, the coyote’s barking at these intrusive dogs appears to be a statement to them of territoriality.
I used to think that the barking might be a warning to other coyotes in the family group, but I have now seen two instances where this was definitely not the case. In the first case the dominant coyote — the mother — was relaxing on a hilltop when one of her full-grown pups started a barking session not too far off — it had been disturbed by a dog. I immediately started watching for a change in the mother’s behavior, waiting for some type of reaction. There was none. This mother ignored the barking, even though I had previously seen her run to a pup’s defense when she saw a dog — a particular dog which she deemed dangerous — approach too close to one of the pups. In the second case I was on a hillside photographing one of these full-grown pups when I heard the mother in the distance — it is a signature bark which I have come to recognize. The young coyote totally ignored the barking and continued its hunt! Now, maybe there are barks and then other barks, but in these cases the barking was not an alarm signal to others.
I have heard that coyotes will howl or bark just for the pleasure of doing so, and I’m sure they do, but I have never heard them under these circumstances. Males have a lower tonal range — barely — but you can tell them apart from the females if you hear them within a short space of time. Coyote “songs” can go on for 20 minutes or longer. I call them “arias”. Here are two recordings from two different coyotes, the first is a female — the second I thought was a female due to its behavior which I’ve seen before in females protecting an area, but I’m not absolutely sure, and the tone is lower pitched than the first: ARIA #1 and ARIA #2. More barking and howling can be found by pressing here: BARKING and HOWLING.
Several coyotes barking at the same time can often sound like many more than there really are. I think this is because they “come in” at slightly different pitches creating dissonances that sound like many. The “howling” link above has group recordings.
Coyotes make various other sounds. There is the classical howl, there is childlike complaining in high pitched tones, there is grunting which sometimes precedes a barking episode — as if the coyote is trying to decide whether or not to go ahead with it. And there are more, but these I’ve listed are all I have heard up to this point.