Coyote Voicings

Artwork by Kanyon Sayers-Roods

I have added to my Introductory Pages a writeup of Coyote Voicings — Yips, Howls and other Vocalizations: a Panoply of Sounds and Situations.

Summary: Coyote communication occurs mostly via eye contact, facial expressions and body language and it can be very subtle. Coyotes are not forever vocal as humans are; they tend to be on the quiet side — except when they aren’t! Here I explain their voice communications, based on my own daily dedicated observations over the past 11 years, and then I give about 20 examples.

Howling Party of Three

Today I saw three coyotes out in a park before walkers or dogs arrived. They were exploring, looking for each other, hunting — all pretty casually. When the dogs arrived, they moved off to the side and up a hill to watch — and they intensified their watch of each other. People leashed their dogs, so no dog problems resulted. When these dogs left the park, two of the coyotes stayed together, wandering further on and eventually up a steep incline; the other coyote appeared to stay where it was.

More dogs passed the group of two coyotes without incident, and then, a soft fire-engine siren could be heard in the far distance. Such a faint sound doesn’t normally produce a reaction from the coyotes. But the younger of the two coyotes on the hilltop began barking in response, and then the one close by joined in. Most of the sounds on this recording are of these two yipping away. But you can actually hear the deeper and longer howl of the third coyote in the distance. So this recording is of three coyotes, though, as always, it sounds like many more voices than that.

When the howling had finished, the third coyote came bounding up the hill where the other two were seated. There were the usual frenzied hugs and kisses and then the three of them ran off. I could not photograph as I recorded, so there are no images of the howling itself. However, both coyotes which I could see remained seated initially as they howled and then walked around each other as the pitch and squeaks got higher! There are a number of recordings listed on this page, so look for the one labeled #1: THREE HOWLING.

Coyotes yipping: Coyote behavior (Revised with updated examples)

[For a more in-depth writeup and more examples, see Coyote Voicings]

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. 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 because they are much more distressed sounding. A less obvious cause of the barking may be an antagonistic dog which simply came too close to the coyote, say within about 100 feet, without actually chasing it: it turns out that in most cases, the dog 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 vocalized 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 instances where this was definitely not the case. For example, a 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 another case, I was on a hillside photographing one of these full-grown pups when I heard the mother barking in distress 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 several videos of them:






Several coyotes barking at the same time can often sound like many more than there really are. They “come in” at slightly different pitches creating dissonances that sound like many.

Coyotes have various other vocalizations. There is the classical howl, there is childlike complaining in high pitched tones, greetings can sound like puppy sounds because they are high pitched, 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. There are anger grunts and growls.

For a more in-depth writeup and more examples, see Coyote Voicings