Many people have a soft spot for owls, which are mysterious and wise. The fact that we seldom see them because of their concealment and nightlife makes them more intriguing. It’s also possible that it will make you wonder how many different owl species live in your neighborhood. We’ll look at owls in Ontario and explore the various types of owls that live there, as well as where and when you might see one.
There are roughly 19-20 different kinds of owls thought to exist in North America at the moment. At least 11 of these owl species may be found in the province of Ontario!
Let’s have a look at these species and learn about them, shall we?
11 OWLS IN ONTARIO
From a neighboring province or the United States, you may often catch sight of uncommon owls passing through or spending time over the border. The following 11 owl species are currently believed to be present in Ontario year-round or seasonally during migrations, according to our study from allaboutbirds.org and Audubon.
Northern Saw-whet Owl, Barn Owl, Great Horned Owl, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, Eastern Screech-owl, Snowy Owl, Northern Hawk Owls, Barred Owls are the 11 kinds of Owls found in Ontario.
1. 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
Learning to recognize and listen for a Northern Saw-whet Owl call at night is the best way to get a glimpse of one. They are known as the “saw-whet” owl since they have a unique call that sounds like a knife being sharpened on a whetstone. They call more often throughout late winter and early summer, so be sure to hear a high-pitched, “too-too-too” call around then.
The nest of the female Northern Saw-whet Owl is immaculate. The male continues to feed her chicks until they leave the nest, which is around 10 days later, when they are roughly 18 days old. The juvenile owls leave the nest with the nest covered in rotting prey, pellets, and excrement, as is typical for youngsters.
They are the smallest of owls in Canada, and can be found throughout Southern Ontario year-round. Their enormous round heads with enormous eyes distinguish them from their tiny stature. These owls are particularly difficult to find due to their tiny size, as well as a few additional factors.
2. BARN OWL
Scientific name: Strix alba
Length: 12.6-15.8 inches
Weight: 14.1-24.7 Oz
Wingspan: 39.4-49.2 inches
The Barn Owl is a permanent resident of Ontario’s far southern reaches and is not commonly seen elsewhere in the province or across Canada. This owl may be found occupying barns and other abandoned buildings, as evidenced by its name. Hollow tree trunks and thick clusters of trees are also favorite roosting spots.
These nocturnal hunters pursue rodents in open fields throughout the night, swallowing them whole. Rather than moving from one end to the other, the owl creates “pellets” by swallowing prey in one gulp. Researchers and students alike use these pellets to learn more about owls and their feeding habits, as well as to see what the owls are eating.
Barn Owls come in a variety of colors and shapes. The biggest is from North America, and the smallest is from the Galapagos Islands. Barn Owls from North America are twice the size of their tiny island counterparts. Despite their worldwide presence, habitat destruction is beginning to harm these species in certain regions.
3. GREAT HORNED OWL
Scientific name: Bubo virginianus
Length: 18.1-24.8 in
Weight: 32.1-88.2 oz
Wingspan: 39.8-57.1 in
The Great Horned Owl, with its enormous booming hoot and long, horn-like tufts where it gets its name from, is an image that comes to mind when you think of owls. It may be found in almost every semi-open location between the Arctic and the tropics, and is one of the most prevalent owls in North America.
This owl may capture birds and mammals significantly bigger than itself, including other raptors like ospreys, and is a very successful hunter. It will also eat tiny scorpions, mice, and frogs when larger prey isn’t available.
Because of its extremely soft feathers that insulate against the cold and mute the sounds of their flight when in pursuit, the Great Horned Owl is well suited to all weather. This magnificent bird possesses the grip power to break the backbone of huge prey and requires 28 pounds of pressure to reopen. The owl uses this vice-like hold to break the spines of larger animals.
If you ever hear a group of American crows get agitated, it might be one Mobbing a Great Horned Owl, the most dangerous predator for them. Before the owl leaves, they may continue to torment it for hours.
Ontario and the majority of Canada, as well as the United States, are home to this huge owl.
4. LONG-EARED OWL
Scientific name: Asio otus
Length: 13.8-15.8 inches
Weight: 7.8-15.3 oz
Wingspan: 35.4-39.4 inches
The most comfortable roosting spot for the Long-Eared Owl is thick foliage. The Long-eared Owl is mostly a breeding species in most of Ontario, according to allaboutbirds.org. You may see them year-round in the province’s far southern reaches, between the Great Lakes. They are, nonetheless, plentiful and may be discovered if you know when and where to look throughout the year. They need wide-open areas for hunting, despite their preference for woods for roosting.
The Long-Eared Owl’s other distinguishing feature is its ear tufts on the top of its head. A single kilometer (roughly half a mile) away, the male owl can be heard calling. The Long-Eared Owl produces a “hoot” and also makes a barking noise, which has multiple noises.
With hearing that is so precise it can pick insects in pitch darkness, the Long-Eared Owl is an efficient hunter. While they are difficult to find, their pellets on the ground may help you find them. Pellets of all owls are well-defined. They may be easier to see in groups during the winter, when they roost.
5. SHORT-EARED OWL
Scientific name: Asio flammeus
Length: 13.4-16.9 in
Weight: 7.3-16.8 oz
Wingspan: 33.5-40.5 in
Short-eared Owls have evolved well to humans, as they’ve moved into airports and swooped up and caught insects as planes preparing for landing displaced the insects. Their ear tufts, which are comparable to those of the Great Horned Owl, give them their name; on this species, they’re too small to be seen.
Short-eared Owls are most active at dawn and dusk, when they fly low over grasslands with broad, rounded wings. They track and hunt small mammals and other birds with their unusually acute hearing. Being discovered frequently nesting on reclaimed and replanted mines, it’s also one of the few species that seems to benefit from strip-mining.
One of the most widely distributed owls in the world, with a daytime population that is among the most common. The distribution of Short-eared Owls shows that these owls can travel great distances, with reports of them descending on ships hundreds of miles from shore.
During most of Ontario’s breeding season, short-eared Owls may be found. These owls can be found throughout the year at the far southern tip of Ontario.
6. EASTERN SCREECH-OWL
Scientific name: Megascops asio
Length: 6.3-9.8 inches
Weight: 4.3-8.6 oz
Wingspan: 18.9-24.0 inches
In most wooded regions within its range, the Eastern Screech Owl is a common owl. It is a year-round common sight in any location with a considerable tree concentration, especially around Toronto and other cities in Southern Ontario. The Eastern Screech Owl is a master of disguise, thanks to its mottled brown and grey feathers that blend in with the trees.
The Eastern Screech Owl is a master of concealment, yet it expels pellets from the base of the tree where it lives. This provides insight into where you may discover an Eastern Screech Owl, as well as a excellent chance to investigate the owl’s diet.
Although the male Eastern Screech Owl usually mates with one female, he may mate with two females on occasion. The second lady will eject the first from her nest when this happens. She’ll then hatch both sets of eggs, as well as her own.
7. SNOWY OWL
Scientific name: Bubo scandiacus
Length: 20.5-27.9 inches
Weight: 56.4-104.1 oz
Wingspan: 49.6-57.1 inches
Most of Canada, including Ontario, is home to the snowy owls during the winter. Each year, these lovely owls fly north to Canada and Greenland’s Arctic regions to breed. Wintering Snowy Owls will stick to the location where they have established a nest.
Because of their bright white plumage, snowy owls pose less of a challenge to identify than other owls. Unlike most other owls, they are diurnal and active during the day, roosting in obvious locations. For hunting, snowy owls favor vast expanses, but they may perch on a high point if necessary.
Snowy Owls, unlike other owl species, are not intimidated to leave their birthplace. Hundreds of miles apart, owls from the same nest were discovered, tracked, and located in opposite directions.
8. NORTHERN HAWK OWL
Scientific name: Surnia Ulula
Weight: 8.5-16 oz
Length: 14.2-17.7 in
Wingspan: 28 in
Lifespan: 10 years
Throughout much of Ontario, the Northern Hawk Owl may be found. During the winter, these owls may travel through Canada’s boreal woods or occasionally into northern United States. In Canada, populations have dwindled, prompting them to migrate south for food.
Since they aren’t nocturnal, Northern Hawk Owls are a little unusual. Because they hunt mostly during the day, their sight is not as sharp as other owl species, and their hearing isn’t as good. In addition, they are easier to see than other owls.
The body of this medium-sized owl is oval, with a long tapered tail and horizontal stripeings on the chest. It can be seen during the day, preferring to sit on top of lone tree branches and search for prey.
9. BARRED OWL
Scientific name: Strix varia
Length: 16.9-19.7 in
Weight: 16.6-37.0 oz
Wingspan: 39.0-43.3 in
In old woods and treed bogs, the Barred Owl’s hooting cry, which resembles “Who cooks for you,” is a frequent sound. “Who prepares food for you all?” Throughout the year, Barred Owls may be seen across Southern Ontario. These owls are presently expanding westward, with the eastern part of Canada and the United States serving as their primary range. In Ontario, woodlands and forests near bodies of water are the best places to look for them.
Stocky bodies and smooth, round heads distinguish Barred Owls as large raptors. Their eyes are large and completely dark, with extremely brown irises. Their plumage is speckled with white and brown mottling, with vertical brown patterns on their underbelly and upper body.
Several birdwatchers take advantage of Barred Owls’ territorial nature. You can attempt mimicking the call with your own voice if you find yourself in the woods at night and hear their call. One of these owls may come in to investigate you and determine if you’re a different owl encroaching on their grounds if you’re lucky.
While they share territory with the Great Horned Owl, they generally vacate it whenever one is present due to their relative size and predatory significance as the much larger Great Horned Owl. As a result of this, the juveniles have developed some beautiful camouflage and may climb trees to avoid detection by this hunter.
10. GREAT GRAY OWL
Scientific name: Strix nebulosa
Length: 24.0-33.1 in
Weight: 24.7-60.0 oz
Wingspan: 53.9-60.2 in
Much of Canada, especially Ontario, is home to Great Gray Owls. These are some of the biggest owls in America, with broad wings and a long tail. Due to their huge facial disks, their eyes appear tiny and close together, giving them a distinct expression. Another notable feature is a white “X” pattern on their faces. Their bodies are covered in fluffy, silvery gray feathers, as their name implies.
Great Gray Owls prefer to keep a low profile and remain difficult to locate, rather than drawing attention to themselves. They avoid human habitation by retreating to thick pine forests and meadow borders. They are most active at night, when they hunt, as do other owls; most typically in the hours before dusk and dawn. They may be found perched at any height and make their nests in dead trees.
The Great Gray Owl isn’t the heaviest owl in North America, despite being the tallest. Despite their lack of weight, they have been known to hurdle through heavy snow to capture a small animal. They must consume at least 7 animals of similar size every day because of their size.
11. BOREAL OWL
Scientific name: Aegolius funereus
Length: 8.3-11.0 in
Weight: 3.3-7.6 oz
Wingspan: 21.6-24.4 in
In dense mixed-wood and coniferous forests throughout Northern and Central Ontario, Boreal Owls may be found year-round. These birds are enigmatic and can be difficult to see, particularly during the day. They change trees every day and may be found in a different location each day.
They’re tiny owls with enormous, square heads and stocky bodies and short tails that range in size from that of a robin. Before swooping down and snatching their meal with their talons, they perch at night and wait for prey like tiny animals and birds.
Boreal Owls are usually quiet and seldom call. This trend, however, changes as males call for mates more frequently in the late winter and early spring. For a greater opportunity of locating them, listen for these rapid hoots at night.