Turtles do not have vocal cords. Nonetheless, they do produce various sounds like hisses and shrieks by expelling air from their lungs. Big turtles produce loud roaring sounds by using the exact mechanism. Aquatic turtles and baby turtles also vocalize at low frequencies that we cannot easily hear.
Let’s take a detailed look at this now.
How Do Turtles Make Noise?
Animals that produce sounds have specialized organs for it. For instance, sounds originate in the larynx in humans.
Now, animals in the lower levels of the animal kingdom do not always have specialized organs to produce sound.
Nonetheless, they can make different types of sounds by using other parts of the body.
Turtles do not have a larynx or vocal cords. Hence, they cannot produce sounds in the same way that we do.
Nevertheless, depending on the circumstances, turtles make different types of noises.
You can hear them producing hisses, clicks, and shrieks.
So, have you wondered how turtles produce these noises?
Well, many of these sounds are involuntary. They hiss or roar by expelling air from the lungs.
Since it comes from their throats, it looks as though they produce it voluntarily.
Apart from these noises, turtles may also produce belching sounds and unpleasant flatulence noises.
Why Do Turtles Make Noises?
The most common reasons that prompt turtles to make noises are:
1. Stress and fear.
Turtles may hiss or roar when they feel threatened. Hissing is the most common noise that a frightened turtle produces.
When a turtle is scared, it pulls its head and limbs into its shell for protection.
But to fit the head and limbs, the turtle must expel air from its lungs.
This sudden release of air creates an audible sound. Hence, hissing is an involuntary or reflex reaction when the turtle feels threatened.
Large turtles make roaring and grunting sounds while expelling air from their lungs.
In their case, their large anatomy helps them produce big, loud noises instead of soft hissing sounds.
Turtles produce various noises while suffering from respiratory infections and other illnesses.
When their lungs are infected, the animal must breathe rapidly. This action produces chirping or gurgling sounds.
Excessive mucus formation in their respiratory pathways will also trigger certain sounds.
If your turtle makes loud cries and shrieks, it is most probably because the animal is ill.
3. Communication with their kind.
Did you know that turtle hatchlings communicate with each other even before they break out of their shells?
A fascinating recent discovery revealed that turtle hatchlings vocalize to synchronize their hatching time.
By appearing from their shells at the same time, they improve their chances of making it alive to the nearest water body.
Some varieties of adult turtles will also produce sounds to communicate with each other about social feeding and nesting.
They usually use squeaking and chirping sounds.
These sounds are quite different from the hissing sounds they produce when stressed or scared.
4. During mating.
Turtles make a lot of noise and commotion when they mate.
The male rams his shell into the female, creating a loud banging noise.
Once the two animals establish contact, they make loud and shrill noises.
Notably, the mating noises vary from one type of turtle to another.
While red-footed tortoises sound like clucking chickens, Russian tortoises make funny squeaking sounds.
Regardless of the type of turtle, it is nearly impossible to miss the action because of all the commotion they create.
When turtles eat and gulp down food, air enters their lungs.
This activity produces various types of sounds like squeaks, grunts, and shrieks.
If turtles ingest air while swallowing their food, they will usually bring it back.
You may see them belch to expel trapped air from their stomach.
If they are unable to release it through their mouth, the turtle may also produce unpleasant flatulence sounds.
Now, you may already know that turtles climb up onto land to make nests and lay eggs.
Since turtles do not move quickly on land, the entire process is long and arduous.
The female turtle must not only find an ideal spot but also dig the ground and create a pit that is big enough to hold her eggs.
After the tiring task of building a nest, the turtle begins laying her eggs.
She will usually produce a series of grunts, pants, and loud noises during this process.
These sounds alert us to the turtle’s exhaustion and stress of nesting.
So it is not surprising that the turtle often stays back to rest after laying her eggs.
She returns to her home in the water only after regaining her strength.
Do Turtles Make Noises At Night?
Turtles are diurnal creatures, which means they are active during the day and sleep at night.
However, some pet owners notice that their turtles are noisy during the night.
The most likely reason for this is that you hear your turtle because there’s silence all around.
Your turtle will most likely be making the same sounds throughout the day.
However, the soft sounds it makes may be drowned in the surrounding noise.
Now, some species of turtles stay awake during the night.
In addition, during the nesting season, females may also be more active during the night.
As a result, these turtles will likely make more noise at night than in the day.
Do All Turtles Make Noise?
Most turtles make some noise or other.
However, some of these sounds are beyond our range of hearing. Hence, we may be unable to recognize or hear them.
Let us look at the most common varieties of turtles and the sounds they produce.
1. African side neck turtles.
Although African side neck turtles are generally quiet, they use different sounds to communicate with their kind.
These animals are generally shy and can take time to warm up to their owners.
When you bring them home, they may make a loud hissing sound when they are intimidated.
But, over time, these animals will slowly outgrow their fear, and the hissing sounds will reduce.
African side neck turtles also make sneezing and gurgling sounds when they have respiratory illnesses.
If you notice such sounds, you must get your turtle treated.
2. Alligator snapping turtles.
Snapping turtles are generally known for their fierceness. These animals are aggressive and quick to snap if they sense any threat.
They make loud hissing noises when frightened. Their snapping noises are also quite loud.
You can also hear them click and make gurgling sounds.
3. Box turtles.
Although box turtles can vocalize, they do not do it very often. They communicate during mating and engaging with their kind.
Box turtles will also make gurgling sounds and sneeze when they are ill.
You can hear them hiss when they suddenly retreat into their shell.
4. Baby turtles.
In studies, it was seen that baby turtles begin vocalizing even before they hatch out their eggs.
Then, when the hatchlings in a nest are fully developed, they communicate with each other to synchronize their hatching time.
By hatching simultaneously, they have a better chance of escaping predators while finding their way to the nearest water source.
Their sounds are not audible to the naked ear. Hence, scientists use special devices to recognize these sounds.
5. Red-eared slider turtles.
Red-eared slider turtles make loud hissing noises when they are scared or stressed.
They also make clicking sounds on various occasions.
These animals make sounds when they are on land and in water.
However, the sounds are louder on land than in water.
You may also notice red-eared sliders making squeaky sounds and grunts.
When red-eared slider turtles have infections or respiratory illnesses, they produce loud whistling sounds.
If you can hear their whistles clearly and it doesn’t get better in a short while, you may have to take your slider to a reptile vet for suitable treatment.
6. Painted turtles.
The most common sound that painted turtles makes is a hiss.
They hiss when they are scared and suddenly retreat into their shells.
The sudden action of expelling air from the lungs produces a short but audible hiss that resembles the sound produced when a balloon loses air.
7. Sea turtles.
Sea turtles make noises by expelling air from their lungs.
These sounds are like grunts, clucks, and cries. Due to their large size, their hissing sound appears like loud grunts.
When you hear it, it may sound like a roar to drive attackers away.
However, the sea turtle produces this sound because it is scared and not because it wishes to attack.
Sea turtles also make loud, whining sounds to communicate with each other and during mating.
They also make very short low-frequency calls that we cannot hear easily.
Baby sea turtles vocalize from their eggs to synchronize their hatching time.
Appearing from the eggs simultaneously and traveling towards the sea together gives them a better chance of survival.