The Atlantic Ocean borders South Carolina on the east and is situated in the southern United States. The Blue Ridge Mountains run through parts of the state, including coastlands, midlands, and even part. A wonder of diverse wildlife, including a beloved bird of prey called the owl, call this vast range of woods, plains, mountains, and wetlands home. We’ll look at the seven kinds of owls found in South Carolina, as well as how to find them.
THE SPECIES OF OWLS IN SOUTH CAROLINA
Barred Owls, Barn Owls, Eastern Screech Owls, and Great Horned Owls are the four species of owls that breed and live in South Carolina year-round. Northern Saw-whet Owls, Short-eared Owls, and Long-eared Owls are three more migratory species that may be seen here throughout the winter.
1. BARRED OWL
Length: 16.9-19.7 in
Weight: 16.6-37.0 oz
Wingspan: 39.0-43.3 in
In South Carolina, Barred Owls may be seen at any time of year, typically near water and swampland. They prefer to be most active at night when they hunt and roost up in tree cavities during the day. Their distinct deep hoot is a great way to identify them. “Who cooks for you?” seems to be what they’re saying.
These owls are bigger than a barn owl but smaller than a Great Horned Owl. They’re on the bigger side. They have mottled white and brown plumage over their stocky bodies, smooth, round heads. They have vertical dark brown bars on their undersides as well.
Mice and rats make up a significant component of their diet, but they also consume other small creatures such as reptiles, amphibians, and little birds. They’re ready to seize small animals when they sit perched in trees or swoop low to the ground.
2. BARN OWL
Length: 12.6-15.8 in
Weight: 14.1-24.7 oz
Wingspan: 39.4-49.2 in
The ghostly white look of barn owls, their enigmatic faces with black, beady eyes, and long lanky bodies make them easy to recognize. At nighttime, they often appear as flashes of pure white, despite the fact that their upperparts are mostly light brown with some darker coloration.
These owls may be found in woodlands, farms, marshes, and open areas like meadows and fields all year round in South Carolina. Because of their fondness for old barns and other disused structures, these owls are known as “barn” owls. Barn Owls are skilled at keeping mouse populations in check, so having one on your farm or property may come in handy.
3. EASTERN SCREECH OWL
Length: 6.3-9.8 in
Weight: 4.3-8.6 oz
Wingspan: 18.9-24.0 in
While Eastern Screech Owls may be found year-round in South Carolina, locating one may be more difficult than you think. While roosting in the holes of trees, these little owls are barely larger than a Robin, with extremely speckled grey plumage that aids them in blending into their surroundings. The best way to try to locate them at night is by listening for their cry, which sounds like a whinny-like, high-pitched trill. They prefer to call home in woodlands and forests, however you may locate them anywhere there is open area and plenty of trees.
Pellets on the ground around the roots of trees are another technique to find Eastern Screech Owls. The owl regurgitates pieces of prey that it can’t digest, such as bones and fur. It might be an indication of a regular roosting spot if you notice a lot of pellets in one region, so be sure to check above for any sleeping owls.
4. GREAT HORNED OWL
Length: 18.1-24.8 in
Weight: 32.1-88.2 oz
Wingspan: 39.8-57.1 in
The quintessential story book owls are great horned owls. They have thick, chunky bodies covered in grey-brown feathers and large, yellow cat-like eyes with feathered tufts atop their heads. Listen for their distinctive deep hoots to determine if someone is close by in the evening or right before daybreak.
In South Carolina, these owls may be found year-round, and they are one of the most common in the Americas. Deciduous and coniferous woods, swamps, and even suburbs are all viable habitats for them.
The predatory style of Great Horned Owls has earned them a reputation. They shoot through the air and grab rats, insects, and other tiny creatures with their incredibly powerful talons. Much bigger and more perilous prey, such as falcons, other owls, and porcupines, are even capable of being taken down by these owls.
5. NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL
Length: 7.1-8.3 in
Weight: 2.3-5.3 oz
Wingspan: 16.5-18.9 in
Little, robin-sized owls with huge spherical heads and big yellow eyes, Northern Saw-Whet Owls are tiny. They are mostly seen in the north, particularly southern Canada, throughout the winter in South Carolina.
While they can be found in other dense woodlands and groves, coniferous woods are the best places to try for them. Northern Saw-whet Owls prefer to quietly roost in trees during the day, but if songbirds find them, they may cause a commotion until they leave.
They are difficult to detect due to their tiny size, uncommon occurrence, and nocturnal behavior. However, their call distinguishes them from other owls. The song is named after the sound a whetstone makes when sharpening saws, and it has a distinct “toot-toot-toot” melody.
6. SHORT-EARED OWL
Length: 13.4-16.9 in
Weight: 7.3-16.8 oz
Wingspan: 33.5-40.5 in
The best time to search for Short-eared Owls in South Carolina is during the winter. Short-eared Owls may be found in grasslands, meadows, and other open areas throughout the winter in non-breeding numbers. They’ll often be found sitting on the ground or perched on trees. In reality, these owls build their nests on the ground rather than on high perches, and they rarely do it.
Short-eared Owls are diurnal, unlike many other owl species that are active during the night. When they like to hunt rodents like voles and mice, the best time to look for them is at dusk and dawn. You might see one flying low to the ground, with beautiful, buoyant wing beats, if you’re lucky.
7. LONG-EARED OWL
Length: 13.8-15.8 in
Weight: 7.8-15.3 oz
Wingspan: 35.4-39.4 in
It is uncommon to see a Long-eared Owl in South Carolina, but it does occur. During the winter, only a small number of Long-eared Owls may be seen. They don’t call as frequently as other owls, so their numbers might be undercounted. Nevertheless, they emit a variety of different noises and cries throughout the breeding season, including as soft, deep hoots, whistles, catlike mews, and even barks.
Long-eared Owls are much smaller, around the size of a crow, with feathered tufts that give them an appearance similar to that of Great Horned Owls. Their faces have smaller facial disks with light-orange coloring, and their skulls seem to be more square-shaped.
They prefer to roost in trees during the day and are only active at night, as do other owls. They like to nap near the trunks of conifers and pines, in which they may find plenty of branches and foliage. The best places to check are trees on the outskirts of woodlands near grasslands and fields.