8 Weird Noises Tortoises Make & Their Explanations

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Have you ever caught your tortoise being vocal? Does that mean tortoises can make noises? Well, the generated sounds are nothing but the situation demands. Learning the noise and their explanations will help the keeper better understand his pets.

Weird noises tortoise make & their explanations:

SqueakCongested nose infection Startled
Quack & ClickOvergrown beak
GruntMating Nesting
HissThreatened Dominance Infection Stress
ChirpExcitedMentally or physically stressed
WhistleInfection Defending
CryInfection Mating

Can there be other purposes behind making these noises? How can you deal with the weird tortoise sounds? Let’s find out.

What Noises Do Tortoises Make?

Compared to turtles, tortoises are less vocal. However, these creatures can not use their vocal cords like us. Instead, they mainly make deep or shallow noises with their lungs and nose.

Luckily, most of the sounds have specific meanings. Therefore, owners can guess the behaviour and needs of the tortoises.

Explanations of 8 common tortoise noises are discussed below,

1. Squeaking

Tortoises do not vocalize the squeaking noise. Instead, the sound comes from their nose or lungs. Each of the conditions can get serious if ignored.

The probable explanation and solution for the squeaking are,

Nose Squeaks or Nares:

This type of squeaking means a congested nose. Now, the congestion can be due to debris, food, substrate, etc., in the nostril.

The foreign substance in the nare will interrupt the inhale and exhale of the tortoises. It means the restricted airflow will lead to squeaky noise. This may often sound like a whistle.

Solution: Usually, the congestion will go away naturally within 24 hours. If not, then call the vet.

Lung Squeaks:

A lung squeaking sound is not a good sign. In fact, the chances of the tortoise suffering from respiratory infection are high. The strains in the respiratory tract cause dull noise.

However, squeaking due to respiratory illness comes with other signs. For example, sneezing, trouble breathing, discharge, lethargy, etc.

Solution: Proper treatment and medication are mandatory to recover the tortoise from respiratory illness. Besides, feed the pet a balanced diet and keep it in a warm environment.

Other Causes:

Apparently, tortoises squeak other than these two reasons. For example, these creatures may make a squeaking noise when mating. Tortoises usually get aggressive when copulation and become loud.

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Tortoises may squeak if they get startled by your action. Imagine a tortoise resting and dozing under the basking light. If you suddenly pick it up without notice, the pet will make a squeaking noise.

Again, some tortoise owners have claimed that squeaking is a personality trait for their pets. Hence, they tag this sound as normal. Yet, my advice would be to check with the tortoise to be on the safe side.

2. Quacking and Clicks

Do not get surprised if you catch your tortoise quacking. Well, of course, not like a duck.

Usually, tortoises with overgrown beaks make a quacking sound. Rubbing the upper beak with the lower potion creates such a noise.

You can compare the quacks to a clicking sound.

Solution: As an overgrown beak is responsible for the quake or click, trimming it will solve the issue. You can follow the below paths to shape your tortoise’s beaks,

  1. Take the tortoise to a professional. He will use sharp tools to trim the overgrown beaks.
  2. Feed the tortoises cuttlebone fish as a supplement.
  3. Experts suggest serving the tortoises meal on rock-built or clay pot dishes. Eating from such bowls helps in the natural wearing of the beaks.
  4. Experienced owners can trim the overgrown beak at home with a firm stainless steel cuticle trimmer. First, draw a line on the tortoise beak to where you want to remove. Then gently hold the tortoise’s head and clip away the extra portion. Be careful, as the pet may panic and try to escape your grip.

3. Grunting

Tortoise grunting is not a bad sign at all. Instead, you get to pick up several hints about the behaviour of this creature via this noise.

Grunting may sound similar to hissing. But it is deeper and shorter. Tortoise trying to exhale more air at a time can create this noise. Muscle contraction and strain may also lead to grunting in tortoises.

Some of the explanations behind the tortoise granting are,

  1. Tortoises grunt loudly when mating. Usually, the males grunt from behind during copulation.
  2. Grunting is also a weapon for male tortoises to attract females. They make this noise to find a suitable mating partner.
  3. A gravid tortoise often grunts when laying her eggs. The noise represents both relief and pain due to the physical strain.

4. Hissing

The hissing noise is more or less common in all animals. In most cases, hissing is an indication of aggressive, rude, and dominating behaviour.

Tortoises make this shallow and long sound due to the following reasons,

  1. Male tortoises make a hissing noise when approaching mating partners. With this sound, the creatures try to intimidate the females. The interested females let the male mount them. However, if the male tortoise oversteps its boundary, the female may hiss back the creature to scare it off.
  2. Tortoises also hiss when retracting in their shells. These reptiles need to empty their lungs while withdrawing their limbs inside the box. As a result, the air comes out as a hiss.
  3. There is a chance that the tortoise hisses because of a severe lung injury. For example, respiratory illness. In this case, the pet struggles to breathe, so the noise comes out.
  4. Tortoises can hiss at the predator when under attack. With this shallow noise, tortoises tell the enemy to back off.
  5. According to many experts, pet tortoises may hiss at their owners when stressed and mistreated.
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  1. Leave your tortoise alone if you notice it hissing frequently.
  2. In the meantime, look for other abnormalities in the pet.
  3. Hissing with open mouth breathing, discharge, lethargy, etc., indicate respiratory illness and requires immediate treatment.

5. Chirping

Apparently, tortoises do make a chirping noise like turtles. It has a similarity to squeaking or hissing.

Although mostly seen in baby tortoises, the adults can also chirp from time to time. I can find 3 reasons behind this chirping behaviour of tortoises. Such as,

  1. Walking long distances or doing tiring physical activities increase the breathing rate of tortoises. In such a scenario, you may find your tortoises making a chirping noise.
  2. The baby tortoises may chirp when they get excited. For example, seeing food or the owner.
  3. Mental stress can also make the tortoises chirp. It is because tortoises experience an increased heart rate and breathing when panicked.

Solution: Determine the reason for the chirping first. To resolve mental and physical stress, make necessary changes in the habitat, diet, and environment.

6. Whistling

Of course, tortoises do not whistle like us. But their breathing pattern may sound like a whistle in some scenarios. For example, when tortoises inhale and exhale air too fast, it generates a whistling noise.

In respiratory illnesses, tortoises’ lungs get strained when breathing. As a result, you get that whistle out of its nostril.

Moreover, whistling with hissing indicates that the tortoise is scared and in a defensive mode. A hostile approach will make the pet make this noise.

Solution: Whistling is often considered harmless for tortoises. But a little bit of cautiousness always keeps the pets on the safer side. Leave the pet alone if it is feeling threatened. In case of respiratory sickness, arrange immediate treatment.

7. Crying

No, your tortoise is not sad and breaking into tears. Tortoises do not have tear ducts and, therefore, no crying. But the crying here implies a low-pitch-meowing sound coming from this species.

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I know the little meowing noise may seem awkward and new to many owners. But do not ignore it in any case. Tortoises may make a hissing noise as the air can not pass through their vocal cords.

The possible reasons behind the crying sound are,

  1. Mating: As mentioned, the male tortoises become aggressive and dominating during mating. The continuous ramming from behind may make the females make the crying sound. Again, sometimes tortoises end their copulation with this cry-like noise.
  2. Respiratory Illness: Tortoises also produce a cry-like sound when they suffer from respiratory sickness. These pets find it difficult to breathe properly in this condition. You will also notice laboured breathing, open-mouth breathing, etc., in the sick tortoise.

Solution: Consult a vet for a proper diagnosis. If the tortoise has a respiratory illness, it needs to be in a warm and clean enclosure. Besides, the pet requires a balanced diet and proper medications.

8. Gurgling

Like turtles, tortoises also emit a low-gurgling noise. However, according to experts, turtles may communicate with each other through this sound. But for tortoises, the gurgling indicates respiratory sickness.

Solution: Respiratory illness has common symptoms like discharge from the nose, swollen eyes, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, lethargy, etc. If you notice these signs alongside gurgling, take the pet to a vet for medication and treatment.

Why Do Tortoises Make Noise?

Experts suggest that tortoises maintain non-verbal communication with each other. Generating different sounds is definitely one of the several ways they follow. Unfortunately, we haven’t decoded the exact meaning of each type of tortoise sound.

However, there are other reasons why a tortoise may make noise. Such as,

  1. Sickness: An ill tortoise makes different sounds. For example, lung squeaking, low hissing, wheezing, etc., indicate a respiratory infection. Nare squeaking means that the pet has a congested nose.
  2. Dominance: Tortoises tend to show power over the weak ones. So whenever a fight breaks out, or the pets try to dominate others, they make a shallow noise.
  3. Scare Off: The species also make noise to threaten the predators. For example, you will catch the tortoise hissing at the enemy to scare it away.
  4. Mating: We all know that tortoises are loud during copulation. Besides, the pets will generate different sounds to attract partners too.
  5. Excitement: Tortoises also express their joy via noises. For example, a hungry tortoise may chirp seeing meals.
  6. Others: Additional reasons behind tortoises making sounds are stress, physical activity, muscle contraction, nesting, etc.

Before You Go

Do you know turtles can also be vocalized? Of course, their noises have meanings too. The attached links below explain the meaning of different turtle sounds.

Do turtles make noise?

What do different turtle sounds mean?

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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