Do Sulcata Tortoises Make Noises? 11 Sounds And 6 Causes

Sulcata tortoises are popular reptiles that you can keep as a pet. Unlike conventional pets like dogs and cats, sulcata tortoises are quiet animals and will only make sounds when they are disturbed or startled. As a responsible tortoise owner, you may be wondering what sounds they make and what they mean.

Although sulcata tortoises do not have vocal cords, they can and will make noises. They don’t usually make the usual pet sounds, but some can whistle, hiss, bark, squeak, or click. However, their noises are not really vocal, but you can hear them if you pay close attention.

In this article, we will help break down everything you need to know about sulcata noises, from what noises they make to why they make them.

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Do Sulcata Tortoises Make Noises?

Although sulcata tortoises do not have vocal cords, they can make noises. Generally, sulcata tortoises create noises when expelling the air from their lungs at different speeds and intensities. The most common noise that people hear sulcata tortoise make is hissing.

Another thing is that most sulcata tortoise sounds are not loud, and we don’t even notice them as they are too short or quiet. Furthermore, sulcata tortoise noises are not always loud or constant.

do sulcata tortoises make noises
Surprisingly, sulcata tortoises make a wide range of sounds including a loud clicking sound when hungry

What Sounds Do Sulcata Tortoises Make?

Surprisingly, sulcata tortoises make a wide range of sounds. Humans can easily hear some of their sounds while some are out of our hearing range. There are also some tortoise noises that children can easily hear while adults cannot detect them.

Some of the sounds that sulcata tortoises make are:

  • Hissing
  • Whistling
  • Clicking
  • Barking
  • Grunting
  • Growling
  • Squeaking
  • Chirping
  • Clucking
  • Quacking
  • Crying

Hissing

Sulcata tortoises make hissing sounds when they are provoked, startled, or scared. They make this noise by forcing the air from their lungs.

This is why you will tend to hear a hissing noise when your tortoise is retracting their body into their shell as there is no extra space in their shell, and they have to collapse their whole body to fit in the shell.

There are also times when your tortoise breath can sound like a hiss. This usually occurs when your tortoise has a respiratory infection and is struggling to breathe.

A startled sulcata tortoise giving out a hissing sound
A startled sulcata tortoise giving out a hissing sound

Whistling

Sulcata tortoises usually make whistling sounds due to respiratory infection. However, if it is a consistent whistle, you will need to check with your vet. Your tortoise may just be experiencing irritation if it whistles once or twice.

Clicking

Sulcata tortoises make clicking sounds when eating. Your tortoise makes clicking sounds when its top and the bottom beak are rubbing together. Clicking sounds are more common with young tortoises, but you may also hear larger adult sulcatas making this sound as well.

Barking

Sulcata tortoises can make barking sounds, but this is not like a dog barking to alert you of something. Sulcatas typically make barking sounds during the mating season to attract females.

Grunting

Grunting sound is quite the same as hissing sounds. However, it is usually deeper and shorter than hisses. Grunting sounds in sulcata tortoise happens when air is escaping from the lungs just like hissing.

Grunting sounds are likely because your sulcata tortoise is allowing more air to escape from their lungs at once. You may hear your tortoise grunting when it is attempting to hide from predators like dogs.

Growling

Sulcata tortoises can make growling sounds when they are really excited about something. Growling sounds are usually loud, and you may hear this once in a while after feeding them with certain food.

Squeaking

Generally, squeaking sounds can be a sign that your tortoise is suffering from a respiratory infection. When you notice that your tortoise is squeaking, you can check for signs of labored breathing and nasal discharge. 

However, squeaking can also be part of your male tortoise’s mating ritual, which is usually very loud.

Chirping

Some sulcata tortoises can make chirping sounds, and an increase in their breathing rate usually causes this because of stress. Chirping sounds are usually more common in baby sulcata tortoises than adults.

Furthermore, sulcatas can make chirping sounds when they are in a new environment or when eating excitedly.

Clucking

Clucking sounds in sulcata is usually common during the mating season. Male sulcatas usually make clucking sounds to attract mates and also to ward off other males.

Quacking

Sulcata tortoises can also make quacking sounds. However, this may happen if your tortoise has a breathing or respiratory problem.

Crying

Sulcata tortoises can make crying sounds if they have a respiratory infection. This happens when there is excessive mucus in their airway, which creates a narrow path for the flowing air. Crying sounds in tortoises usually sound like little meows.

Why Do Your Sulcata Tortoises Make Noise?

Although it is quite unusual for a sulcata tortoise to make a sound, it does not mean something wrong with your tortoise. Just like other animals, sulcata tortoises usually make noise for different reasons.

Some of the reasons why sulcata tortoises make noise are stated below.

Nares or Nose Squeaks

One of the major reasons why sulcata tortoises make noise is when there is debris in their nose. You will hear strange sounds when your tortoise is breathing after it has inhaled debris from dry substrate. This sound is because of the restriction of airflow through the nares, and it should stop in 24 hours.

But some hobbyists believe that this is a normal sound made by their tortoise when they inhale sharply. However, if the sound continues after 24-48 hours, then you may need to seek a vet’s advice.

Overgrown Beak Squeak

Sulcata tortoises can make quaking and squeaking noises if they have an overgrown beak. This is because sulcata tortoise beaks can rub against the bottom part of their mouth when it overgrows. This can then give the click or squeak sound.

Once you notice that their beak starts to touch or grow past their chin, then you will need to give it a trimming. You can take them to the vet to help trim their beak. Furthermore, you can also provide a flat rock or clay pot dish for your tortoise to help wear out the beak.

You can also trim your tortoise beak at home if comfortable with doing this.

When Tortoises Are Startled

Sulcata tortoises can make a hissing sound or squeaking sound when you startle them. You may hear this sound if you reach into their enclosure to grab them. This is because your tortoise will try to rapidly pull their legs and head into their shell for protection when you scare them.

You will then hear the squeaky noise as your tortoise tries to exhale to help pull itself into the appendage. You can prevent this by ensuring that your tortoise sees as you approach them and also reduce sudden movements to avoid startling them.

Mating Signals In Tortoises

Male tortoises usually make a squeaking noise when they are attempting to mate. Once they are in the mating season, your tortoise may even try to mate with other males or inanimate objects when there is no female.

This shows they can make this noise a natural response, and there is nothing you can do about it.

sulcata tortoise mating sound, much like a human. [source: byblosny]

Environmental Issues

Sulcata tortoises can make squeaking sounds because of their environmental conditions. Some tortoises can make squeaky sounds while breathing when their environment is too dry, and they are not getting the right moisture content in their environment.

All you have to do is ensure that you maintain an ideal humidity level (80% humidity) for your sulcata tortoise.

Sulcata tortoises can also make squeaking sounds if their temperature level is too low or directly after soaking them. This means you will need to maintain an ideal temperature level in your sulcata tortoise enclosure.

Respiratory Illness Squeaks

Sulcata tortoises may make a squeaking sound when they have a respiratory infection. When your tortoise makes squeaking, quacking, or wheezing sounds, you can check if they have some of the symptoms listed below.

  • Your tortoise is extending its back to breathe more than usual
  • Your tortoise is stopped eating, and it is lethargic
  • It sounds like your tortoise is wheezing when breathing
  • There is a discharge on your tortoise’s nose after bathing time.
  • Your tortoise is breathing with its mouth wide open.

Once you suspect that your tortoise has a respiratory infection, you should immediately make an appointment with the vet.

A young sulcata tortoise with respiratory infection struggling to breathe [source: MJ Gaudier]

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Should I go to a Vet Because Sulcatas Make Noise?

Sulcata tortoise may make noise when it is suffering from a sickness like respiratory illness. Once you are concerned that your sulcata tortoise is making noise, then you should contact the vet. Your vet can then help to diagnose and provide the proper treatment for your tortoise.

Do sulcata tortoises squeak?

Yes, sulcata tortoises can make a squeaking sound. However, this can be a sign of respiratory infection, and you should be on the lookout for signs of labored breathing and nasal discharge. Tortoise can also make a squeaking noise during the mating season, and it can be quite loud.

Why does a tortoise squeak while breathing?

Tortoise can squeak while breathing when their nose is blocked, they have a respiratory infection, or you keep them in an incorrect temperature and humidity. You may need to see a vet for diagnosis and treatment if the squeaking does not stop within 48 hours.

Final Thoughts

Although sulcata tortoises do not have a vocal cord, they can make noises. However, their noises are not usually loud or constant, and you may not even notice this. Once you are concerned that your tortoise is making noises, you can take it to the vet to help make a diagnosis and provide the required treatment for your tortoise.