8 Owls In Rhode Island (With Photos)

Many people like the enigmatic owl. Because of their camouflage and nocturnal habits, most people never see them, making them that much more intriguing. You might also wonder how many distinct species of owls live in my area after reading this? The eight species of owls found in Rhode Island will be discussed in this article.


The barn owl, barred owl, eastern screech owl, great-horned owl, long-eared Owl, northern saw-whet Owl, and short-eared Owl are the eight species of owls that may be found in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island, despite its smaller size, has a diverse range of habitats that may support owls, from woods to beaches. You may spot them in wooded communities and some of them are comfortable around humans. Others may be found by heading deeper into the forest for a day of exploring along the coast.


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

Although they are less prevalent than other species on this list, barn owls may be found year-round in Rhode Island. Grasslands, fields, ranches, agricultural land, and strips of forest are some of the most common open habitats for them.

Barn owls prefer to build their nests in barns, attics, and church steeples because they like the eaves and beams. Their name most likely came from this. Tree hollows, caverns, and cliff-side crevices are also used as nests. During the day, Barn Owls are uncommon to come across since they are quite nocturnal.

They soar low over farms at night and during the day, using 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 truly terrifying 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 may be found throughout Rhode Island at any time of year. These birds prefer to stay close to home, even if it is only a ten-mile radius.

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 are all targets for great horned owls.

Barred owls, particularly if there are huge trails of uninterrupted forest, favor matted and aged trees near water. During the day, you might see them perched in trees on a hiking roost. When hunting, however, they are most active at night.


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

Throughout much of the eastern United States, including Rhode Island, this little owl can be seen year-round.

Gray, brown, or “red” (really a reddish brown) are the three plumage colors of eastern screech owls. The patterns on their feathers, regardless of color, provide exceptional blending in with tree bark.

They may have a screaming or screeching sound, but this is incorrect. They don’t hoot, instead producing whistling noises or “whinnies” that sound like a high-frequency horse.

Eastern screech owls may be attracted to your yard if you install an appropriately sized nest box. Farmland, city parks, and suburban communities are all home to these little owls. Anywhere with some tree cover is a good bet.


  • Scientific name: Bubo virginianus
  • Length: 18.1 – 24.8 in
  • Wingspan: 39.8 – 57.1 in
  • Weight: 32.1 – 88.2 oz

Due to their huge size, yellow eyes, and “horns,” which are tufts of feathers that stick out on either side of their head, great horned owls are one of the most prevalent and identifiable owls in North America. They stay in Rhode Island all year and do not migrate. They’re also plentiful across the state, much like the barred owl.

Forests, swamps, deserts, and urban settings like city parks are among the habitats where these owls may be found. The majority of their plumage is a cool or warm brown, although it may change color.

Mammalian, avian, reptile, insect, and fish are all part of the great horned owl’s diet. The sound owls make is commonly referred to as their hoot, and it is frequently heard on television and in films.


  • 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 migratory birds that spend the winter in Rhode Island. Since they are less common than the rest of the state’s species, you’ll need to seek them out. Pine stands or woods near grassland and meadows are their preferred habitat.

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

They are difficult to see due to their excellent camouflage and tendency to roost in thick forests.


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

Northern saw-whet owls are tiny birds with yellow eyes and a round head. There are a few additional factors that make these owls difficult to locate, in addition to their small size.

While they’re perched motionlessly on a limb, their mottled brown plumage blends in perfectly with the trees around them. Because they are only active at night, you won’t encounter these owls while it’s bright outside. They are also naturally secretive.

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. They are known as the “saw-whet” owl because of their distinctive call, which resembles a blade being sharpened on a whetstone. A succession of whistled notes of the same pitch make up their too-too-too call.

They prefer thick and mature woods and stay in Rhode Island throughout the year. Little animals like mice and voles make up the majority of their food.


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

Throughout the summer, short-eared owls are almost exclusively found in Canada and northern America. While you may get some year-round in Rhode Island, the majority only descend into New England during the winter.

They do have ear tuft feathers, however they are so short that they are virtually never visible. Marshes, gravel and rock quarries, fields, woodlots, and thickets are all good places to look for them in the winter. In response to the population of their prey, such as moles, rats, rabbits, and weasels, their populations in a particular region might fluctuate from year to year.

They are especially vulnerable to habitat destruction and fragmentation from the huge open grasslands that they need being transformed into agricultural land, grazing land, leisure sites, and residential development. Their populations are said to be declining overall.

They may be found all throughout the world and may 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

The wintering range of snowy owls stretches across much of Canada, but each year they move farther south into the United States. During the winter months in Rhode Island, at least a few may be seen each year. Year to year, the quantity may fluctuate substantially.

Throughout the summer, these magnificent owls travel much north to Canada’s and Greenland’s Arctic regions to breed. They’ll be hunting lemmings all day, every day of the summer.

Because of their bright white plumage, snowy owls may be easier to see if they are nearby. They are diurnal, unlike most other owls, and thus active during the day. Hunting in open areas, such as fields and beaches, is their favorite. In reality, in Rhode Island, the best place to hunt for them is along the beachline. On snowy beaches, look for them on the ground or in open areas.

Once they reach maturity, snowy owls are wanderers who frequently stay away from home. Hundreds of miles apart, owls from the same nest have been discovered in opposite directions.

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