Not immediately familiar with this motif, Peter - which particular drama is it?
 
If it's a bird, at night, the usual culprits are owls, either tawny or barn owls, or even swifts or oystercatchers.
 
Is it certain that it's a bird - foxes for example and even domestic cats can make some bloodcurdling noises.
 

 
On 4 November 2012 00:23, P <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
David or anyone else on the list who might know, I watch a lot of British drama. Inevitably, when there is a suspenseful night scene, a bird will call from a distance with a sound a bit like a person being stabbed, or perhaps like a bat out of hell. Any idea what that bird might be?
Thanks,
Peter M.