Owls In Massachusetts (8 Common Species)

Many people like the mysterious owl. Because of their camouflage and nocturnal habits, the majority of us never see them, making them even more intriguing. It might also pique your interest in how many sorts of owls can be found in my neighborhood? We’ll take a look at Massachusetts’ eight different types of owls in this article.


The barn owl, barred owl, eastern screech owl, great-horned owl, long-eared owl northern saw-whet Owl, short-eared Owl and snowy Owl are the eight species of owls found in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts has a variety of habitats for owls, despite its size as a smaller state. From forests to beaches, the state provides options. You may find them in wooded areas, and some of them are friendly around humans. Others will require a longer drive to the shore to view, as they are located in more mature woodland.


  • Scientific name: Tyto alba
  • Length: 12.6 – 15.8 in
  • Wingspan: 39.4 – 49.2 in
  • Weight: 14.1 – 24.7 oz

In Massachusetts, barn owls can be found all year, although they are seldom seen. Open environments such as grasslands, fields, ranches, agricultural land, and strips of forest are where they may be found most often.

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 one of the most likely origins of their name. Tree holes, caverns, and cliff edges are also used to breed. During the day, Barn Owls are very quiet and difficult to locate.

They fly low over fields at dusk and at night, using their remarkable hearing to detect mice and other rodents. If you see them in low light, their massive, ghostly white face and belly can be pretty scary!


  • 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 is fairly frequent and may be seen all year in Massachusetts. These birds prefer to stay within a 10-mile radius, even when they aren’t at home.

They do not like to be in the same area as the great horned owl, despite their ranges frequently overlapping. Barred owl eggs, young birds, and even adults will all be killed by great horned owls.

Their distinctive hooting cry is likened to “who prepares for you?” They emit a loud and distinct whooping cry. “Who is cooking for you all?” A mated pair will sing a wide range of hoots, honks, caws, and gurgles throughout their courtship.

Their hooting cry is characterized as a “who cooks for you?” “Who cooks for you guys?” A mated couple will sing a variety of hoots, honks, caws, and gurgles throughout the duration of their relationship.


  • 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 Massachusetts, this little owl can be found year-round.

Gray, brown, or “red” (really a reddish brown) are the three types of feathers found on eastern screech owls. The patterns on their feathers, regardless of color, help them blend in with tree bark and provide excellent camouflage.

They are called after a sound that resembles a scream or a hiss, but this is not the case. They make trilling noises or “whinnies,” which sound like a high-pitched horse, instead of hooting.

You may attract eastern screech owls to your property by constructing an appropriately sized nest box. Farmland, city parks, and suburban neighborhoods are all home to these little owls. There’s not really a lot of difference between here and there.


Due to 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 identifiable owls in North America. They don’t leave Massachusetts during the winter and don’t travel. They, too, are widespread across the state, like the barred owl.

Many environments, including woods, marshes, deserts, and city parks, have populations of these owls. The majority of them have a cool or warm brown plumage that may change color.

Mammalian, avian, reptile, insect, and fish are all part of the Great Horned Owl’s diverse diet. The sound owls make is commonly referred to as their hoot, and it is frequently utilized in television and movies.


  • Scientific name: Asio otus
  • Length: 13.8 – 15.8 in (height)
  • Wingspan: 35.4 – 39.4 in
  • Weight: 7.8 – 15.3 oz

Long-eared owls are winter migrants that may be seen in Massachusetts. Despite the fact that they are far less common than other animals in the state, they must be sought after. Pine stands or wooded areas near grassland and pastures are their preferred habitat.

They have a constantly surprised expression due to their bright yellow eyes, white V-shaped facial pattern, round facial disc, and long feather tufts that point straight up. They may be distinguished from great horned owls by their very rounded face with a white V.

While not in the breeding season, long-eared owls are mostly quiet, so you won’t often hear them hooting around Massachusetts.


  • 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 inhabit 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 motionless on a limb, their speckled brown plumage blends in readily with the tree around them. You won’t see these owls because they’re only active at night, and they’re also naturally quiet.

Learning the call and listening for it at night, particularly between January and May, is the best bet for finding a northern saw-whet owl. The name “saw-whet” owl comes from their unique cry, which resembles a knife being sharpened on a whetstone. A succession of whistled notes of the same pitch makes up their too-too-too call.

They prefer thick and mature woods and stay in Massachusetts all year. Small animals like mice and voles make up the majority of their diet.


  • Scientific name: Asio flammeus
  • Length: 15 in
  • Wingspan: 38 in
  • Weight: 12 oz

The short-eared owl spends the summer in Canada and northern United States, with just a brief visit to Massachusetts during the non-breeding season. The majority of the sightings I’ve documented for them in the state are along the coast.

These birds have ear tuft feathers, although they are so short that they are almost never visible. Marshes, gravel and rock quarries, fields, woodlots and thickets are all good 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 particular region can change year to year.

They are susceptible to habitat loss and fragmentation caused by the huge open grasslands they need to be transformed into agricultural land, grazing land, leisure grounds, and house development. Thus, it is assumed that their populations are dwindling overall.

They may be found all around the globe, and they may go across large distances in open water.


  • Scientific name: Bubo scandiacus
  • Length: 20.5-27.9 inches
  • Weight: 56.4-104.1 oz
  • Wingspan: 49.6-57.1 inches

The wintering range of snowy owls extends throughout most of Canada, but each year they move farther south into the United States. During the winter months in Massachusetts, at least a few may be seen. Year to year, the quantity might vary considerably.

During the summer, these lovely owls travel north to Canada’s and Greenland’s Arctic areas to breed. All hours of the day, they’ll be hunting lemmings, their favorite summer food.

Because of their bright white plumage, snowy owls are easier to see than other owls if they are close by. They are diurnal and active during the day, unlike most other owls. They like hunting in open areas, such as fields and beaches. In reality, the best place to hunt for them in Massachusetts is down at the beach. On snowy beaches, look for them on the ground or sitting out in the open.

After they reach maturity, snowy owls are wanderers who seldom remain in one place. Hundreds of miles away from each other, owls from the same nest that were tracked have been discovered.

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