10 Owls In North Dakota (Common & Rare)

Owls are a source of fascination for many people. The fact that they are so interesting because we seldom get to see them because of their camouflage and nocturnal habits. It might also make you wonder how many different owl species may be discovered in my neighborhood? The ten species of owls found in North Dakota will be discussed in this article.


The barn owl, barred owl, burrowing owl, eastern screech owl, great-horned owl, long-eared Owl, northern hawk Owl, northern saw-whet Owl and short-eared Owl are the 10 kinds of owls that may be seen in North Dakota.


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

Only the southeastern corner of North Dakota is officially part of their normal range, and sightings of barn owls are rather uncommon. Grasslands, fields, ranches, agricultural land, and strips of forest are their preferred open habitats.

Barn owls favor barns, attics, and church steeples because they like to nest in man-made constructions with a lot of eaves and beams. One explanation for their moniker may be this. Tree cavities, caverns, and cliff-sides are also used for nesting. During the day, Barn Owls are rare to spot, since they are quite nocturnal.

They swoop low over fields at dusk and through the night, utilizing their exceptional hearing to detect mice and other rodents. If you see them in low light, their huge, ghostly white face and belly can be a frightening sight!


  • Scientific name: Strix varia
  • Length: 16.9 – 19.7 in
  • Wingspan: 39.0 – 43.3 in
  • Weight: 16.6 – 37.0 oz

The gorgeous brown and white striped barred owl’s range in North Dakota is limited to the eastern border, making them quite uncommon in the state.

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

Barred owls prefer forest with big tracks of uninterrupted woodland, especially near water. During the day, you may see them roosting in trees on a hike. When hunting, on the other hand, they are most active at night.

Their loud, distinctive hooting cry has been likened to “who prepares for you?” “Who prepares all of your meals?” A mated couple will sing a variety of hoots, honks, caws, and gurgles throughout their courting.


  • Scientific name: Megascops asio
  • Length: 6.3 – 9.8 in
  • Wingspan: 18.9 – 24.0 in
  • Weight: 4.3 – 8.6 oz

Throughout the eastern part of the United States, especially North Dakota, this little owl is ubiquitous all year.

Gray, brown, and “red” (really a reddish brown) are the three plumage tones of eastern screech owls. Feather patterns provide superb camouflage for blending in with tree bark, regardless of the color.

Their name may imply that they emit a high-pitched wail, but this is not the case. They make trilling noises or “whinnies” that resemble a high-pitched horse, rather than hooting.

You may attract eastern screech owls to your yard by placing up an appropriately sized nest box. Farmland, city parks, and suburban neighborhoods are all home to these little owls. Anywhere with tree cover is ideal.


  • 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 huge size, yellow eyes, and “horns” that are tufts of feathers growing out on either side of their head, great horned owls are one of the most frequent and recognizable owls in North America. Throughout North Dakota, you can find them all year.

Forests, bogs, deserts, and urban environments such as city parks are all habitats for these owls. Most of them have a cool or warm brown plumage, although their colors may change.

Mammalian, avian, reptile, insect, and fish are all part of the large horned owl’s diet. The sound owls make is often referred to as their hoot, which most people associate with owls.


  • 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 breeding season, long-eared owls may be found in North Dakota. Pine stands or woodlands near grassland and pastures are their preferred environment.

They have a constantly surprised appearance due to their bright yellow eyes, white V-shaped facial pattern, round face disc, and long feather tufts that point straight up. Great horned owls have a very rounded face with a white V, which is a great way to distinguish them.

Because of their excellent camouflage and the covert nature of roosting in thick woodlands, they are difficult to find. On spring and summer evenings, listen for their long, low hoots.


  • Scientific name: Surnia ulula
  • Length: 14.2-17.7 in
  • Weight: 8.5-16.0 oz
  • Wingspan: 27.9 in

The winter range of Northern Hawk Owls extends down into the northern United States, including North Dakota, but they are usually found in Canada and Alaska. In the state, they would be regarded uncommon, with sightings mostly in the northeast region around Devil’s Lake.

These owls don’t move around a lot, so when they do come to the United States, When the population is up and their prey animals are down, it’s usually because of a good breeding season. As a result, certain owls may have to travel much farther than usual to obtain food. The birdwatchers have luck on their side!

They have huge, spherical heads with yellow eyes and white faces, much like other owls. They, like hawks, hunt at dawn and dusk, perched on trees before gliding after prey. They hunt during the day around dawn and dusk. Their eyesight is likewise outstanding, allowing them to see prey from up to half a mile away. Like hawks, they can also sense prey from above.

Lakeshores, meadows, and wooded farmlands are among the landscape features they seek when they reach the United States.


  • Scientific name: Aegolius acadicus
  • Length: 7.1-8.3 inches
  • Weight: 2.3-5.3 oz
  • Wingspan: 16.5-18.9 inches

The head of a northern saw-whet owl is round, and the eyes are yellow. These owls are famously difficult to locate for a variety of reasons, in addition to their tiny size.

When they’re perched motionlessly on a limb, their mottled brown plumage blends in well with the surrounding trees. These owls are mostly nocturnal, so you won’t come across them while it’s bright out. They’re also naturally reclusive.

When they call the most frequently between January and May, the best bet for finding a northern saw-whet owl is to learn its call and listen for it at night. They are known as “saw-whet” owls because of their unique cry, which resembles that of a blade being sharpened on a whetstone. Their whistled notes of the same pitch constitute their too-too-too call.

The diet of these owls mainly includes tiny mammals like mice and voles, and they prefer thick, mature woods. In North Dakota, they spend the majority of the year wintering, but in the state’s northeastern corner, they can stay all year.


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

Throughout the summer, short-eared owls are virtually exclusively found in Canada and the US. Breeding season is in northeastern sections of the state, while they stay year-round in southern North Dakota.

They have ear tuft feathers, however they are so short that they are almost never visible. Their name implies this. They have yellow eyes, much like many owls, but the black around their eyes stands out.

In response to the population of their prey, such as moles, rats, rabbits, and weasels, their populations in a particular region might fluctuate yearly.

They are particularly vulnerable to habitat destruction and division from the enormous open grasslands they need to be converted into farm property, grazing property, recreational properties, and housing development. It is anticipated that their populations as a whole are in decline.

They may be located all across the globe and can cross large distances across open water.


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

Snowy owls may be found throughout much of Canada and the US’s far northern region throughout the winter. North Dakota is one of the states involved. Depending on how many owls were born that summer and how much food is available farther north, population will fluctuate significantly from year to year.

During the summer, these lovely owls fly north to Canada’s and Greenland’s Arctic regions to breed. All hours of the day, they’ll be looking for their favorite summer prey, lemmings.

Because of their bright white plumage, snowy owls are easier to locate than other owls. They are diurnal, unlike most other owls, and thus active during the day. They like hunting in vast open areas such as fields, runways, and beaches. Look for them on snowy or open ground, in the trees or on the ground.

Snowy owls are wanderers who seldom remain close to their breeding grounds once they reach maturity. Hundreds of miles apart, owls from the same nest have been discovered in opposing directions.


  • Scientific name: Athene cunicularia
  • Length: 7.5-9.8 in
  • Wingspan: 21.6 in
  • Weight: 5.3 oz

During the breeding season, Burrowing Owls may be found throughout North Dakota.

These owls have long legs and live underground in burrows, which are rather small. These burrows are dug by themselves on occasion, and other animals’ burrows, such as prairie dogs and ground squirrels, are taken over on occasion. Man-made constructions like pipes, buckets, and culverts have also been discovered to be utilized for burrows.

They can be found in deserts and grasslands, for example, in open environments. They’re small in comparison to the vast open terrain they call home, and when they’re in their burrows, barely peek above the horizon. At dawn and dusk, burrowing owls are most active.

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