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18 Loudest Animals In The World 

How loud can your voice go? Even if you can shout with all your might, going above 100 decibels can cause extreme pain. Many animals produce sounds enough to make your ears bleed. Of course, lions and elephants are among the loudest animals in the world, but you'll be surprised to find insects in this list. 

Related Read: Strongest Animals in the World.

How do scientists determine what animals produce the loudest sounds?

The loudest sound isn't necessarily determined by human hearing. There are sounds the human ear cannot perceive; we refer to such sounds as ultrasonic or infrasonic. Humans can perceive frequencies between 20Hz and 20kHz but not those below or above the threshold. Some animals can.

There are also sounds that are way too loud for human ears to tolerate. The human ear can only sustain sounds around below 120 decibels. Louder sounds can cause deafness and injuries. If you are exposed to very decibels in frequencies your ears cannot pick up, it won't damage your hearing.

To measure loudness, scientists measure the amplitude of sound waves. Amplitude is a characteristic of sound that describes strength. The unit of measure is decibels.

18 Loudest Animals On Earth Based On Decibel Level

Loud sounds take effort to produce, so it stands to reason that the animals make such loud noises for a purpose. Here are some of the loudest animals on earth as well as how and why they make so much noise.

1. Elephant (Elephantidae)

elephant
Photo by Matthew Spiteri on Unsplash.

Elephants are intelligent and social animals. They communicate many different sounds, including snorts, rumbles, trumpets, barks, and grunts. Elephants can use their trunks, mouths, and ears to produce different types of sounds. Each sound is a distinct signal. 

You've probably heard the loud trumpeting noise African elephants make to show excitement or fear. That sound can get to 90 decibels, but that's not even the loudest sound elephants can make.

For most of their communication needs, elephants produce a low-frequency sound human hearing cannot pick up. Scientist Katy Payne discovered that rumbling sound in 1984. The sound can reach up to 117 decibels.

Listen to the elephant's rumble.

Related Read: Elephant Facts.

2. Lion (Panthera leo)

lion
Photo by Francesco on Unsplash.

A lion's roar can easily be as loud as 114 decibels (measured from a one-meter distance), and you can hear it from 5 miles away. That's loud enough to cause hearing loss or injury if you hear a lion's roar up close. 

Lions have the most impressive roar of all big cats. A feat they're able to achieve thanks to their unique vocal cords. Humans and other animals have triangular cords, while lions have flat square cords that are stronger and more flexible.

Lions roar to impress lionesses and to defend their territory against trespassers, especially other males. It seems to be more energy efficient than patrols as their territories are quite large. 

Listen to the lion's roar.

Related Read: Lion Facts.

3. Kakapo (Strigops habroptila)

kakapo
Photo by Department of Conservation on Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The kakapo bird belongs to the parrot family and is the world's largest parrot. Kakapos can't fly and are active at night. The kakapo has an owlish appearance, earning it the name owl parrot. 

Kakapos produce a wide variety of sounds. During the breeding season, the males produce a booming noise followed by high-pitched metallic calls. The sound is believed to reach up to 132 decibels and can be heard from over 4 miles away. 

The birds use their thoracic air sac to produce this impressive sound. Male kakapos are the only parrots with an inflatable thoracic air sac.

The boom and high-pitched metallic calls are mating calls lasting 7 hours a night for three to 4 months. However, once mating is done, male kakapos do not participate in caring for the young.

Listen to the kakapo.

4. Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus)

sperm whale
Photo by Gabriel Barathieu on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

Sperm whales produce a clicking sound that reaches sound levels of up to 230 decibels. The clicks can be heard by other sperm whales thousands of miles away. That's way louder than a jet engine on takeoff. The clicks come in short bursts of 0.0001 seconds.

The sperm whale's sound is low frequency, and your ears cannot pick it up. It generates the sound by forcing air through the respiratory system. The sperm whale uses this clicking sound as an echolocation tool to find food and communicate.

Sperm whales also produce a trumpeting sound. It happens less frequently than clicks and hasn't been studied extensively.  

Fun Fact: Sperm whales have the biggest brains of any living creature. They are also the largest-toothed whales.

Listen to a sperm whale.

5. Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)

blue whale
Photo by Ben Phillips on Pexels.

Blue whales are much larger than sperm whales. They're the largest animal on earth and can grow up to 100 feet and weigh over 160 tons. Being hunted for whale oil and colliding with large ships are some reasons the blue whale population is endangered.

Blue whales produce whistling calls that are louder than a jet engine. The sound can be heard from other blue whales from 1,000 miles away. It measures 189 decibels. A blue whale can make pulsing, moaning, or groaning sounds.

Surprisingly, blue whales don't even have vocal cords. They are able to produce sound using their larynx and the nasal sacs. The sounds blue whales produce are in the infrasonic range.

Listen to the blue whale. 

Related Read: Whale Facts, Types of Whales.

6. Green Grocer Cicada (Cyclochila australasiae)

green grocer cicada
Photo by KlausMayer on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Green Grocer cicadas are the loudest sound-producing insects. Their sound level is comparable to the yellow Monday cicada, the other loudest insect. However, the two species sound different.

Only male cicadas can produce loud sounds. They do so to attract mates and scare predators. Besides mating calls, they also produce distress calls. The Green Grocer produces a noise that can measure 129 decibels at a close range.

The sound is generated by contracting internal muscles, which clash with their tymbals (drum-like structures). The contractions can be as fast as 140 times per second. Their hollow abdomen further amplifies the sound.

There are over 280 species of cicadas, and some can stay underground as nymphs for up to 17 years.

Listen to the green grocer cicada.

7. Grey Wolf (Canis lupus)

grey wolf
Photo by bl19 on Needpix.

Wolves make barking, whimpering, growling, and howling sounds. The grey wolf's piercing howl is about 115 decibels. That's louder than a rock concert. You can hear its howl from 10 miles away in the open tundra, but the howl doesn't carry that far in wooded areas.

Howling sessions can range from half a second to 85 seconds, depending on the purpose and number of participants. Wolves also use scent markings and body language to communicate.

Howls are how wolves communicate their location when hunting. They also howl to signal danger or establish territory. A wolf will also howl to show affection for pack members. Wolves can modulate their howls to make their pack sound larger than it really is.

Listen to the grey wolf.

Related Read: Wolf Facts, Types of Wolves.

8. White Bellbird (Procnias albus)

white bellbird
Photo by Hector Bottai on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The male white bellbird of the Amazon is a contender for the loudest bird in the world. Its short, loud calls reach 125 decibels when trying to impress a female. Hearing that sound up close could seriously injure your ears, but the female white bellbird doesn't seem to mind. The calls are made right in her face. It's part of the courting ritual.

Most birds have thin abdominal muscles, but the white bellbird has extra thick abdominal muscles. The ripped muscles sustain the intense internal pressure that's required to produce such loud sounds.

The male white bellbird has a long wattle dangling from its upper beak. It whips the wattle around as it sings to the female. Unlike the males, the females lack wattles, hardly make any sound, and have olive-green plumage.

Listen to the white bellbird.

9. Greater Bulldog Bat (Noctilio leporinus)

Bats are one of the few mammals that use sound to find food and safely navigate. We refer to that ability as echolocation. It is what makes bats such successful nocturnal hunters.

The greater bulldog bat is also known as the fisherman bat because they hunt fish. It uses its high-frequency calls to easily track fish in water pools. The lesser bulldog bat employs a similar tactic to catch insects.

The greater bulldog bat and the lesser bulldog bat happen to produce the loudest sounds compared to all other bats. The bulldog bats produce sounds that can get up to 140 decibels. That's louder than is safe for the human ear. Thankfully, the sounds made by bulldog bats are outside the human hearing range, between 30 to 60 kHz.

Listen to the greater bulldog bat.

Related Read: Bat Facts.

10. Water Boatmen (Corixidae)

water boatmen
Photo by Ryan Hodnett on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

Water boatmen are boat-shaped insects with oars-shaped hindlegs. These insects typically live in ponds, lakes, and streams. Only male water boatmen produce loud sounds, and they do it to attract mates.

Although they are just about 13 mm long, they produce a calling song1 that's up to 99.2 decibels loud. For comparison, a freight train produces 100 decibels as it zips by. You may not hear the noise that loudly if you pass by a water boatman because the water muffles the sound.

They produce sound by rubbing their genitals against their abdomen. That's why they earned the nickname, singing penis. Water boatmen are not only the loudest animals on earth relative to body size but also the only ones who can create noise using their genitals. 

Listen to a water boatman.

11. Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta)

spotted hyena
Photo by Antony Trivet on Pexels.

Spotted hyenas are known for their maniacal giggles, but they also generate sounds such as groaning and squealing. They also make a "whoop" sound to communicate over long distances. The whooping sound is the loudest sound produced by hyenas, and it carries for over 3 miles.

They hunt in large packs, and the loud noises help them communicate in the melee. The hyena's laughter has nothing to do with amusement. It's instead a sign that they feel threatened or frustrated.

Hyenas are fierce hunters and only turn to scavenging when prey is scarce. They successfully prey on buffalos and giraffes despite their smaller size. Unlike how movies often portray them, hyenas are brilliant animals with complex societies and social behaviors.

Listen to the hyena.

Related Read: Hyena Facts.

12. Tiger Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus bellulus)

tiger pistol shrimp
Photo by Haplochromis on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The tiger pistol shrimp or snapping shrimp lives in sandy or muddy spots in coral reefs. The snapping shrimp is a predator but can maintain symbiotic relationships with other organisms.

It has a unique way of hunting for food. One of its claws shoots water jets at such high speeds that an air bubble forms. That air bubble pops and sends a shock wave capable of stunning or killing any fish within a 2-meter range. 

The loud sound created by the pop is over 220 decibels. That's louder than a gunshot, although it would sound like popcorn if you heard it underwater.

Another interesting thing about the tiger pistol shrimp is that the center of its sonic snap gets as hot as the sun. Whenever the pistol shrimp takes a shot, it creates a flash of light.

Listen to the tiger pistol shrimp.

13. Howler Monkey (Alouatta)

howler monkey
Photo by Jason Rothmeyer on Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The howler monkey is the largest of the New World monkeys, and you can find them in Central and South America.

Howler monkeys live in large groups. They use their ear-splitting noise to communicate within their troop, attract females, and defend territory. You can hear them from as far as 3 miles when they gather to howl.

The howler monkey is most likely the loudest land animal. It is able to achieve a sound level of 140 decibels because of its enlarged hyoid bone. It is more prominent in males than in females.

A study observed that howler monkeys seem to sacrifice testicle size and sperm production for the ability to generate louder howls. In howler monkeys with really large hyoid bones, the testes are small.

Listen to the howler monkey.

Related Read: 

14. Common Coqui Frog (Eleutherodactylus coqui)

The coqui frogs are native to Puerto Rico and named after the "ko-kee" croaks produced by the males. The first part of the croak is a warning to other males, while the second part is a mating song that’s supposed to attract females. 

The sound produced by the coqui frog can get 100 decibels, which is impressive for an animal no bigger than 2 inches. The males try to out-croak one another, making the noise disturbance a lot worse.

Coquis are an invasive species in Hawaii, with no natural predators, so their population is quite high. They can reach densities of 2000 frogs per acre. Besides creating such a racket that disturbs sleeping residents, coqui frogs are consuming insects at an unsustainable rate.

Listen to the common coqui frog.

Related Read: Monkey Facts, Types of Monkeys.

15. Katydid (Tettigoniidae)

katydid
Photo by Bernard DUPONT on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The katydids are a species of bush crickets, also known as long-horned grasshoppers. They are predominantly nocturnal insects. The lifespan of katydids varies between months and years depending on the habit region.

Most katydids have wings but are generally not great at flying. So they aren't so quick to escape capture. They protect themselves using camouflage. They live in bushes, trees, or grasslands that match their color. Katydids also have body parts that mimic vegetation. You can find katydids on every continent except Antarctica.

The loudest katydid has a calling song with sound levels of more than 125 decibels, which is on par with a chainsaw. The song is to attract females, so only male katydids sing it. To produce the sound, they run one of their wings against the jagged surface of the other wing.

Listen to the katydid.

16. Oilbird (Steatornis caripensis)

oilbird
Photo by The Lilac Breasted Roller on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

Oilbirds are an interesting species. They are called guácharo, meaning "wailer" in their native South American habitat. Oilbirds feed on fruits and have a preference for oil palm nuts. The nocturnal birds live in caves and use echolocation like bats.

The oilbird is one of the loudest animals in the world. Unlike bats, its clicks are audible to human ears. An individual click can go as high as 100 decibels. When oilbirds gather in large groups, the noise gets even louder.

Oilbirds are essential seed dispersers in their rainforest habitats. They have no predators except humans, who capture their young and bring on deforestation. Although the oilbird population is stable, legal protection still applies everywhere.

Listen to the oilbird.

17. Northern Elephant Seal (Mirounga angustirostris)

northern elephant seal
Photo by Mike Baird on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The northern elephant seal is the largest true seal in the Northern hemisphere. It can weigh over 4,000 pounds and grow to about 13 feet. Commercial sealing was widespread in the 1800s and led to the near extinction of northern elephant seals. Fortunately, the seals made a comeback through a small population that survived in Mexico.

Currently, elephant seals are a protected species. However, vessel strikes and fishing gear entanglement still pose fatal threats to their population.

Northern elephant seals are generally noisy, but the males make the loudest noise. They do so to warn off other males from their territory. If an intruder comes around, it would decide to challenge or avoid the territorial male by judging the strength of its warning sound. 

The male northern elephant seal can produce a warning noise of up to 131 decibels. The seal uses its large inflatable nose as an amplifier.

Listen to the northern elephant seal.

Related Read: Seal Facts, Types of Seals.

18. Moluccan Cockatoo (Cacatua moluccensis)

Moluccan cockatoo
Photo by Clinton Steeds on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Moluccan cockatoo is a pretty bird. It has white or pale pink plumage with a bright orange crest on its head. People also call it the salmon-crested cockatoo. They mainly eat fruits and especially enjoy coconuts.

Moluccan cockatoos are a member of the parrot family. They can mimic the sounds of people and other animals. The Moluccan cockatoo is a popular pet, but wild populations are increasingly vulnerable.

In the wild, Moluccan cockatoos scream to alert their flock of oncoming danger. Even as household pets, they'll scream ritually in the morning and at night. Their scream is about 135 decibels, and it's louder than a siren. It would hurt your ears if you're too close.

Listen to the Moluccan cockatoo.

Related Read: Types of Parrots.

What is the loudest animal in the world?

The sperm whale is the loudest animal in the world if we go by decibels and not the human ear. It can produce sounds up to 230 decibels.

Conclusion

Finding out some of the loudest animals on earth can be surprising. You'd never expect that the tiger pistol shrimp produces sounds loud enough to deafen human ears. Even insects can generate ear-splitting noise levels. Although some big animals make the list, size does not determine the loudest animals. 

1

Sueur, J., Mackie, D., & Windmill, J. F. C. (2011). So Small, So Loud: Extremely High Sound Pressure Level from a Pygmy Aquatic Insect (Corixidae, Micronectinae). PLOS ONE, 6(6), e21089.

By Jennifer Okafor, BSc.

Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.

Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

Photo by AJ Robbie on Unsplash.
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