Owls are seen with curiosity and admiration by many individuals. The fact that they are often unseen because of their camouflage and nocturnal habits makes them all the more fascinating. It might also make you wonder how many different owl species may be discovered in my neighborhood? The 13 species of owls discovered in Utah will be discussed in this article.
OWLS IN UTAH
The barn owl, boreal owl, burrowing owl, flammulated owl, great gray owl, great horned Owl, long-eared Owl, Mexican spotted Owl, northern pygmy-owls and northern saw-whet Owls are the 13 species of owls you may see in Utah.
That’s an impressive list! Let’s look at each one.
1. BARN OWL
- Scientific name: Tyto alba
- Length: 12.6 – 15.8 in
- Wingspan: 39.4 – 49.2 in
- Weight: 14.1 – 24.7 oz
Year-round, most of the United States, including Utah, is home to barn owls. Grasslands, fields, ranches, agricultural land, and strips of forest are the preferred open habitats for them.
Barn owls prefer to construct their nests in barns, attics, and church steeples, among other man-made structures with a lot of eaves and beams. It’s possible that they acquired their name in this manner. Treeholes, caverns, and cliffside nests are also used by them. During the day, Barn Owls are difficult to locate since they are very nocturnal.
They fly low over fields at dusk and through the night, utilizing their exceptional hearing to locate mice and other rodents. If you see them in dim light, their huge, ghostly white face and belly may be a unsettling sight!
2. BOREAL OWL
- Scientific name: Aegolius funereus
- Length: 8.3-11.0 in
- Weight: 3.3-7.6 oz
- Wingspan: 21.6-24.4 in
Boreal owls are found in the northern boreal forest, which stretches from North America to Eurasia and is made up of spruce, birch, and fir trees. In the United States, you can only find them in a few states. There are occasional sightings east of Salt Lake City, despite the fact that Utah is not technically in their range. As a result, they are uncommon in the state, but may be found.
Boreal owls, especially at day, are difficult to discern because they are a mystery species. Each day, they roost in a new tree, so don’t look for them in the same location as you did the day before.
They’re small owls with huge, square heads, stocky bodies, and short tails that range in size from a robin to a sparrow. Before swooping down and seizing their prey with their talons, they perch and wait for prey like tiny mammals and birds to come out at night.
Boreal owls are generally quiet, and they don’t make a lot of noise. This behavior, on the other hand, changes in the late winter until spring, as males call more often for mates. For a greater chance of hearing them, listen for these sharp hoots at night.
3. BURROWING OWL
- 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 in Utah.
These little owls dwell in burrows and have long legs. These burrows are sometimes dug by themselves, and occasionally they take over abandoned burrows left by prairie dogs or ground squirrels. They’ve also been discovered to dig holes using manufactured items like pipes, buckets, and culverts.
They can be found in deserts and grasslands, among other open habitats. They’re tiny in size when compared to the vast open environment they call home, and their burrows barely peek above the horizon. They’re difficult to see. At dawn and dusk, burrowing owls are most active.
4. FLAMMULATED OWL
- Scientific name: Psiloscops flammeolus
- Length: 5.9-6.7 in
- Weight: 1.5-2.2 oz
During the spring and summer, the flammulated owl can be found in Utah, particularly in higher elevation areas that run through the state’s center. These owls are tiny and spend most of their time hidden in the crowns of big evergreen trees, making them difficult to locate. Sound is the most likely way to find them. The sound has a cyclic, low-pitched tone.
The most reported locations include Zion National Forest, the Tushar Mountains, and the Wasatch range in Salt Lake City.
Flying insects like crickets, moths, and beetles are the main source of food for them, which they hunt at night. They’re well disguised and look like screech-owls, but their ear-tufts are shorter. They have reddish gray feathers.
5. 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
Gray owls are found throughout Alaska and Canada all year, but in limited areas of the continental United States. During the winter, a small population of these may reside north of Salt Lake City, although sightings are uncommon in Utah.
A “bow tie” at the neck, a strip of white feathers with black in the middle, gives these big owls a round head with yellow eyes. In dense evergreen woods in the north, great gray owls capture voles, gophers, chipmunks, and other tiny creatures in meadows and clearings. In the United States, it is known as These animals prefer woodlands near to montane meadows with pine and fir.
Great gray owls don’t construct their own nests. They may utilize existing raven or raptor nests, tree crowns that have fallen, or even constructed platforms and clusters of mistletoe. They can hunt using sound alone, and their huge talons may smash through hard packed snow to capture prey hidden beneath.
6. GREAT HORNED OWL
- 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” of feathers that protrude out on each side of their head, great horned owls are one of the most prevalent and recognizable owls in North America. Utah is home to them all year.
Many habitats, such as woods, swamps, deserts, and city parks, are home to these owls. Most of their plumage is either a cool or warm brown, although it may vary in color.
Mammalian, bird, reptile, insect, and fish are all part of the great horned owl’s diet. The sound owls make is known as their hoot, and it is frequently employed in TV and cinema.
7. LONG-EARED OWL
- Scientific name: Asio otus
- Length: 13.8 – 15.8 in (height)
- Wingspan: 35.4 – 39.4 in
- Weight: 7.8 – 15.3 oz
Utah is home to long-eared owls all year. Pine stands or woodlands near grassland and pasture are their natural habitat.
Their big, vivid yellow eyes, white V shaped face pattern, wide face disc, and straight up pointing feather tufts may cause them to appear startled all of the time. Great horned owls may be distinguished from other types of owls by their extremely rounded face with white V.
They are difficult to detect due to their excellent camouflage and tendency to roost in thick woods. On spring and summer evenings, listen for their long, low hoots.
8. MEXICAN SPOTTED OWL
- Scientific name: Strix occidentalis lucida
- Length: 16-19 in
- Weight: 19.5-23 oz
- Wingspan:42-45 in
The spotted owl is one of the biggest owls in North America, with three subspecies: Mexican spotted, Pacific Coast spotted, and Great Plains. Both the US and Canada have classified it as endangered. Mexican and foreign governments were also involved. They are still relatively uncommon in southern and southeastern Utah, where they may be found year-round.
The Mexican spotted owl has white stripes and a pale face. It is a dark brownish-gray color. There are no ear tufts on their rounded skull.
Despite their size, these owls are uncommon and difficult to locate. Pine-oak or mixed evergreen woods, as well as Douglas fir and pine, are home to the Mexican subspecies. In tiny canyons with steep walls, they breed and roost. Small to medium sized rodents make up the majority of the spotted owls’ diet, although rabbits, gophers, bats, smaller owls, birds and insects are also eaten. They mostly hunt at night, although they may begin as early as dusk.
9. NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL
- Scientific name: Glaucidium gnoma
- Length: 6.4-7.1 in
- Weight: 2.1-2.5 oz
- Wingspan: 14.5–16 in
The mountainous western United States, particularly Utah, are home to a large number of Northern Pygmy-Owls. These are awake during the day, and because they are small and tend to perch still waiting for prey, you still need to keep your eyes peeled if you want to see them.
To make locating them easier, try to familiarize yourself with their high-pitched toots and calls. Groups of singing birds that are making a commotion should be watched as well. They’ll typically swarm a Northern Pygmy-Owl and attempt to scare it away if they find one. Because it regularly eats little song birds, they don’t want this owl around.
The heads of northern pygmy owls are quite spherical, with no ear tufts. Their head and back are brown with white specks, while their belly has vertical brown stripes.
10. 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
With a spherical head and yellow eyes, northern saw-whet owls are tiny. There are a few additional reasons why these owls are notoriously difficult to locate, in addition to their small size.
When they’re perched motionlessly on a branch, their mottled brown plumage blends in completely to the surroundings trees. Because these owls are only active at night, you won’t notice them when it’s light outside.
Learning the call and listening for it at night, especially 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 unique cry, which resembles that of a blade being sharpened on a whetstone. A succession of whistled tones at the same pitch make up their too-too-too call.
The diet of these owls mostly consists of tiny mammals like mice and voles, and they prefer thick and mature woods. Winter residents in western Utah, but year-round residents in the remainder of the state, they are mostly found in winter.
11. SHORT-EARED OWL
- Scientific name: Asio flammeus
- Length: 15 in
- Wingspan: 38 in
- Weight: 12 oz
Over the summer, short-eared owls are nearly entirely found in Canada and northern US, with a few exceptions in Utah during the non-breeding fall and winter.
They have “ear tuft” feathers, as the name suggests, but they are so short that they are virtually never visible. They have yellow eyes, similar to many owls, but the black around their eyes makes them stand out.
Their prey, such as moles, rats, rabbits, and weasels, may change from year to year in tandem with their population in a given region.
They are particularly vulnerable to habitat destruction and fragmentation from the enormous open grasslands they require, so it is assumed that their populations as a whole are declining.
They may be found all over the globe, and they can travel across open water for long distances.
12. SNOWY OWL
- 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 across most of Canada, but they are increasingly finding their way south into the United States each year. Northern Utah has had sightings, although they are unusual.
During the summer, these magnificent owls go to Canada and Greenland’s arctic areas to breed. Throughout the day, they’ll be hunting lemmings, their favorite summer meal.
Because of their bright white plumage, snowy owls are easier to see than other owls if they are near you. They are active during the day, unlike most other owls. Fields, airports, and beaches are their preferred hunting locations because they prefer wide-open spaces. Look for them on the ground, perched out in the open, or in the snow.
Once they reach adulthood, snowy owls become wanderers and seldom remain in the same place. Hundreds of miles away from each other, owls from the same nest have been discovered in opposing directions.
13. WESTERN SCREECH OWL
- Scientific name: Megascops kennicottii
- Length: 7.5 – 9.8 in
- Wingspan: 21.6 – 24.4 in
- Weight: 3.5 – 10.8 oz
All along the western North America coast, as well as in several western US states, Western Screech-Owls may be found. They may be found all year in Utah, especially in marshes.
The eastern and western variants look similar from a visual standpoint. Different hoots are thought to exist among them. The western screech owl has a succession of quick hoots, while the eastern variety has a descending whinny. Their ranges don’t overlap.