Animals That Whistle (6 Examples + Pictures)

Yellow-bellied marmot
Photo: Bryce Gandy / Flickr / CC BY NC 2.0

Humans aren’t the only animals that whistle, but the numbers are very slim. Whistling is extremely rare in the animal kingdom and from what we know today – there are only a few species of animals that whistle.

Take a look at all the whistling animals below:

  • Walnut Sphinx Caterpillars
  • Dholes
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Mice
  • Marmots
  • Bottlenose Dolphins 

1. Walnut Sphinx Caterpillars

Walnut sphinx moth catterpillar on leaf
Photo: Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Amorpha juglandis

What’s important to instantly note is that no animal on the planet can whistle the way humans can. We are the only species capable of shaping our mouths in a certain way and producing a high-pitched noise.

Even though the sounds these animals make a sound similar to a whistle – none of these animals are whistling through their mouth. Additionally, there are some animals producing sounds that are so high or low-pitched that we can’t hear them.

The walnut sphinx caterpillar will compress its body in order to squeeze the air out. It has holes on the side of its body and when the air leaves through these holes, it produces a shrill noise.

This is a defensive method that’s meant to scare birds away – apparently, this “whistle” is frightening for them and they won’t approach the caterpillar.

2. Dholes

Dhole standing on grass
Photo: Udo Schröter / Flickr / CC BY SA 2.0

Scientific name: Cuon alpinus

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Dholes are Asian wild dogs, and there, they are known as whistling hunters. These dogs will hunt in packs, coordinating with one another. As they hunt, they form several smaller hunting groups to surround prey.

In order to know where the other groups are and when to attack, they produce a noise that’s very similar to human whistling. This form of communication in dogs is only prevalent in this species.

These whistles are much shorter, quieter and they’re not as aggressive as human whistling.

3. Guinea Pigs

Sasu the guinea pig, on grass with yellow flowers
Photo: Andy Miccone / Flickr / CC0 1.0 (public domain)

Scientific name: Cavia porcellus

In both the wild and captivity – guinea pigs will whistle joyfully when they’re anticipating food. However, they also use these small whistles as signs of distress – for example, when a baby guinea pig loses its mother.

This whistling is, still, not as nearly as loud nor as apparent as human whistling and it can easily be mistaken for squealing.

4. Mice

Wild mouse held in hand
Photo: HerPhotographer / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Mus musculus

Male mice are one of those animals that produce a whistling sound so high-pitched that humans can’t possibly hear it. The purpose of this call is to court females on their territory, but also to intimidate other males.

Out of all the animals on this list, their whistling is the closest to human whistling. They let the air out from their lungs through their windpipes, with the biggest difference being the avoiding of vocal cords.

5. Marmots

Yellow-bellied marmot
Photo: Bryce Gandy / Flickr / CC BY NC 2.0

Scientific name (genus): Marmota

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Marmots are some of the most vocal animals in North America, at least when it comes to communication. These animals constantly speak with one another through whistling, very similar to how we communicate.

They use whistling to coordinate, warn of danger, and court females. Their whistles are shorter than human whistles and they can apparently only strike a single note, but they do it constantly and loudly.

6. Bottlenose Dolphins

Bottlenose dolphin surfacing from water
Photo: Caroline Legg / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Scientific name (genus): Tursiops

Dolphins and the way they communicate have been subject to research for decades at this point, and it’s been deduced that every single dolphin has a unique whistle they use to identify themselves with.

Similar to how names and surnames function with humans, dolphins use whistling to locate one another and identify. They also learn other dolphins’ whistles to “call out for them” when they’re away or in case they get lost.

Incredibly, this is very important when a baby dolphin is developing a relationship with its mother.

To Conclude

Although no animals that whistle can completely mimic the way humans can whistle, their forms of whistling are very similar to what we do. Mice, out of all animals, actually produce this whistling sound in a very similar way.

There are crucial differences between us – human whistling is usually much longer, louder and we can change notes at will, while most animals can just produce a single sound over and over again.

Some animals, like dolphins, have come to utilize this whistling in an incredible way, identifying and communicating through it.

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James Ball

James has had a lifelong passion for animals and nature, tracing back to his childhood where he first began fostering intimate knowledge and connection with pet frogs and snakes. He has since honed this interest into a career as a trained Wildlife Biologist, specializing in Biogeography, sustainability and conservation. In addition to his professional pursuits, James maintains an active lifestyle, regularly indulging in outdoor activities such as hiking, and musical pursuits like playing piano and swimming.

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