Owls are seen with fascination and awe by many people. Because of their camouflage and nightlife habits, they are all the more fascinating since we seldom see them. It might also pique your interest in how many different owl species may be discovered in my region? The eight species of owls found in Kentucky will be examined in this article.
OWLS IN KENTUCKY
The barn owl, barred owl, eastern screech owl, great-horned owl, northern saw-whet owl, and short-eared owls are the seven species of owls that may be found in Kentucky. The snowy owl, which you may occasionally see in Kentucky if you are lucky, has been included as well.
1. BARN OWL
- Scientific name: Tyto alba
- Length: 12.6 – 15.8 in
- Wingspan: 39.4 – 49.2 in
- Weight: 14.1 – 24.7 oz
Although they may be difficult to locate, barn owls are present year-round in Kentucky. Grasslands, fields, ranches, agricultural land, and strips of forest are their preferred open habitats.
Barn owls prefer to build their nests in barns, attics, and church steeples, among other man-made constructions with a lot of eaves and beams. This is how they got their moniker, most likely. Tree holes, caverns, and cliff-sides are also used for nesting. During the day, Barn Owls are little likely to be spotted because they are quite nocturnal.
They fly low over fields at dusk and through the night, using their exceptional hearing to detect mice and other pests. When you see them in low light, their huge, ghostly white face and belly may be a scary sight.
2. BARRED OWL
- Scientific name: Strix varia
- Length: 16.9 – 19.7 in
- Wingspan: 39.0 – 43.3 in
- Weight: 16.6 – 37.0 oz
The lovely brown and white striped barred owl may be found all year in Kentucky, and it is quite common. These birds prefer to remain close to their family, and during the course of their lives, they seldom travel more than a ten-mile radius.
Barred owls prefer watery environments with various and older trees, particularly when there are broad stretches of uninterrupted forest. During the day, you may see them roosting in trees on a hiking trail. When hunting, they are, however, most active at night.
Their hooting call, which is loud and unique, has been characterized as “who cooks for you?” “Who cooks for you all?” A mated pair will sing a variety of hoots, honks, caws, and gurgles throughout their courting.
3. EASTERN SCREECH-OWL
- Scientific name: Megascops asio
- Length: 6.3 – 9.8 in
- Wingspan: 18.9 – 24.0 in
- Weight: 4.3 – 8.6 oz
Throughout most of the eastern United States, including Kentucky, this little owl is found year-round.
Gray, brown, or “red” (which is really a reddish brown) are the three plumage tones of eastern screech owls. The patterns on their feathers blend in with tree bark in any color, providing superb camouflage.
They may seem to make a shrill or wailing noise, however this isn’t the case. They make trilling noises or “whinnies” that mimic a high-pitched horse, rather than hooting.
Eastern screech owls may be attracted to your yard if you place up an appropriately sized nest box. Farmland, city parks, and suburban neighborhoods are all home to these little owls. Almost any environment with some tree cover.
4. GREAT HORNED OWL
- Scientific name: Bubo virginianus
- Length: 18.1 – 24.8 in
- Wingspan: 39.8 – 57.1 in
- Weight: 32.1 – 88.2 oz
Because of their enormous size, yellow eyes, and “horns” of feathers that protrude out on either side of their head, great horned owls are one of the most prevalent and well-known owls in North America.
Forests, swamps, deserts, and urban areas like city parks are all places where these owls may be found. Their plumage ranges from a cool brown to a warm brown in color. Year-round, they can be found across Kentucky.
Mammalian, avian, reptile, insect, and fish are among the foods eaten by great horned owls. The sound owls make is most often referred to as their hoot, and it is frequently used in TV and films.
5. LONG-EARED OWL
- Scientific name: Asio otus
- Length: 13.8 – 15.8 in (height)
- Wingspan: 35.4 – 39.4 in
- Weight: 7.8 – 15.3 oz
During the non-breeding season in Kentucky, long-eared owls may be spotted. They are far less prevalent in the state than other species, so you’ll have to seek them out. Pine stands or woods with grassland and pasture are their preferred environment.
Their constantly surprised expression is aided by their vivid yellow eyes, white V-shaped face pattern, round face disc, and long feather tufts that point straight up. Great horned owls have a pointed, angular face with a white V on it. They’re easy to distinguish from each other.
When not in the breeding season, long-eared owls are mostly quiet, making it unlikely that you will hear them hooting around Kentucky. However, during this time of year, they do roost in groups from time to time, which can be helpful.
Because of their well-camouflaged and hidden roosting in thick woodlands, finding them is difficult.
6. NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL
- Scientific name: Aegolius acadicus
- Length: 7.1-8.3 inches
- Weight: 2.3-5.3 oz
- Wingspan: 16.5-18.9 inches
Little saw-whet owls with a spherical head and yellow eyes live in the north. These owls are also notoriously difficult to locate for a variety of reasons, in addition to their small size.
When they’re perched motionlessly on a branch, their mottled brown plumage blends in easily to the trees around them. Because these owls are only active at night, you won’t encounter them during the day since they are also naturally secretive.
Learning the call and listening for it at night, particularly between January and May, is the best bet for locating a northern saw-whet owl. They are known as the “saw-whet” owl because of their distinctive cry, which sounds like a blade being sharpened on a whetstone. Their whistle call is a series of the same-pitch whistled notes.
The mainstay of these owls’ diet is small mammals like mice and voles, which they prefer in thick and mature woods. During the winter months, these owls come to Kentucky for non-breeding.
7. SHORT-EARED OWL
- Scientific name: Asio flammeus
- Length: 15 in
- Wingspan: 38 in
- Weight: 12 oz
The summer is spent almost entirely in Canada and the northern United States by short-ear owls, with only a brief visit to Kentucky during the non-breeding season.
They do have “ear tuft” feathers, as the name implies, but they are so short that they are virtually never seen. Marshes, gravel and rock quarries, fields, woodlots, and thickets are all places to look for them during the winter. In close relation to the population of their prey, such as moles, rats, rabbits, and weasels, their populations in a certain area might vary year to year.
They are particularly vulnerable to habitat destruction and fragmentation caused by the massive open grasslands that they need to be transformed into agricultural land, grazing land, leisure lands, and housing development.
They can travel long distances across open water and are found in a variety of regions throughout the globe.
8. SNOWY OWL
- Scientific name: Bubo scandiacus
- Length: 20.5-27.9 inches
- Weight: 56.4-104.1 oz
- Wingspan: 49.6-57.1 inches
The winter range of snowy owls extends across much of Canada, but each year they seem to be moving farther south into the United States. While Kentucky is not officially part of the snowy owls’ winter range, they have been sighted on rare occasions. In 2020, at the Owensboro-Daviess Regional Airport, a lucky sighting was made.
During the summer, these stunning owls go north to breed in the Arctic areas of Canada and Greenland. All hours of the day, they’ll be hunting lemmings, their favorite summer food.
Because of their vivid white plumage, snowy owls are more visible than other owls if they are nearby. They are diurnal, like most other owls, and are active during the day. They like hunting in open areas, such as fields and beaches. Look for them to be found on the ground, or perched on a branch.
Once they become adults, snowy owls become wanderers and prefer not to remain close to home. Hundreds of miles away from each other, owls from the same nest that had been tracked were discovered.