Owls hold a special fascination for many people. Their camouflage and nocturnal habits make them all the more fascinating since we seldom see them due to their camouflage. You might also be curious about how many distinct kinds of owls may be discovered in my region? We’ll take a closer look at Wisconsin’s nine owl species in this article.
OWLS IN WISCONSIN
The barred owl, eastern screech owl, great gray owl, great-horned owl, long-eared Owl, northern hawk Owl, northern saw-whet owl and short-eared Owl are the nine species of owls that frequent Wisconsin.
1. BARRED OWL
- Scientific name: Strix varia
- Length: 16.9 – 19.7 in
- Wingspan: 39.0 – 43.3 in
- Weight: 16.6 – 37.0 oz
The common brown and white striped barred owl may be found throughout Wisconsin year-round, and is a sight to behold. These birds prefer to reside close to home and seldom travel more than 10 kilometers throughout their lives.
They don’t like to be in the same territory as the great horned owl, despite their overlapping ranges. Barred owl eggs, young birds, and even adults will be targeted by great horned owls.
Barred owls favor woodlands with mature trees near water, especially if there are extensive stretches of uninterrupted forest. During the day, you may observe them roosting in trees. When hunting at night, however, they are most active.
The sound of their shrill and distinct hooting call has been characterized as “who cooks for you?” “Who prepares for you-all?” A mated pair will sing a variety of hoots, honks, caws, and gurgles throughout the course of their courtship.
2. EASTERN SCREECH-OWL
- 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, especially the southern half of Wisconsin, this little owl may be found all year.
Gray, brown, or “red” (really a reddish brown) are the three plumage colors of eastern screech owls. The designs on their feathers provide superb concealment for blending in with tree bark, regardless of the color.
Their name may suggest a shrill or wailing sound, but this is not the case. They make trilling noises or “whinnies” that sound like a high-pitched horse, rather than hooting.
Eastern screech owls may be attracted to your yard by setting up an appropriately sized nest box. Farmland, city parks, and suburban neighborhoods are all home to these little owls. Anywhere with some tree cover is a good bet.
3. 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
Throughout Alaska and Canada, year-round great gray owls may be found, however they are uncommon in the continental United States. While seeing them would be difficult, Wisconsin falls within their winter range.
The necks of these huge owls are encircled by a strip of white feathers with black in the center, and their heads are round. Voles, gophers, chipmunks, and other tiny creatures are hunted in meadows and clearings by big gray owls that dwell in thick evergreen woods of the north. In the United States, however, Forested areas close to montane meadows are what they prefer.
The great gray owls don’t construct their own nests. They’ll utilize abandoned raven or raptor nests, shattered tree tops, and even human-made platforms or clumps of mistletoe. Their hearing is so acute that they can hunt by sound, and their massive claws may penetrate hard packed snow to seize prey beneath.
4. 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 either side of their head, great horned owls are one of the most common and well-known owls in North America. They may be found all year in Wisconsin, no matter the season.
Forests, marshes, deserts, and urban environments like city parks are all habitats for these owls. Most of their plumage is a cool or warm brown, but it can vary in color.
5. 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
Throughout most of Wisconsin, long-eared owls may be seen all year. Pine stands or wooded areas near meadows and pastures are their preferred habitat.
Their broad facial disc, round face pattern, and long feather tufts that stick straight up may give them a constantly surprised look with their brilliant yellow eyes, white V-shaped face pattern. Great horned owls may be distinguished from each other by their extremely rounded faces with a white V.
They are difficult to detect due to their camouflage and roosting in thick forests, which is a stealthy activity. On spring and summer evenings, listen for their long, low hoots.
6. NORTHERN HAWK OWL
- 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 may sometimes extend into the northern United States, including Wisconsin, and is typically found in Canada and Alaska. This uncommon owl will most likely be found in the northern part of the state if you are lucky enough to see it.
Owls don’t frequentally travel across the Atlantic, therefore it’s rare to find them in the United States. The population is generally up when the breeding season is over, but the number of their prey animals has decreased. This implies that certain owls will have to travel farther than usual in order to find food. For birdwatchers, it’s lucky!
They have huge, spherical heads with yellow eyes and white snouts, similar to other owls. They, like hawks, hunt around dawn and dusk, perched on trees before swooping after prey. They hunt in this way around dawn and dusk. Their eyesight is good, and they may see prey from half a mile away, similar to hawks.
Lakeshores, meadows, and wooded farmland are among the habitats they seek when they reach the United States.
7. 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
Little saw-whet owls with a spherical head and golden eyes are common in the north. These owls are also notoriously difficult to locate for a number of reasons, in addition to their tiny size.
When they’re perched motionlessly on a branch, their speckled brown plumage blends in readily to the trees around them. Because they are only active at night, you won’t notice them while it’s light out. These owls are also naturally secretive.
Learning a northern saw-whet owl’s call and listening for it at night, especially between January and May, is the greatest bet for finding one. The name “saw-whet” owl comes from their unique cry, which resembles a blade being sharpened on a whetstone. A series of whistled notes of the same pitch make up their too-too-too call.
8. SHORT-EARED OWL
- Scientific name: Asio flammeus
- Length: 15 in
- Wingspan: 38 in
- Weight: 12 oz
The summer is almost entirely spent in Canada and northern United States by short-eared owls. They breed in central and northern Wisconsin during the breeding season, which lasts throughout the year in southern Wisconsin.
They have “ear tuft” feathers, albeit they are so short that they are practically never visible. As the name suggests, they have them. They have yellow eyes, similar to those of many owls, however the black around their eyes really stands out.
Look for them in marshes, gravel pits, rock quarries, fields, woodlots, and thickets throughout the winter. Their prey, such as moles, rats, rabbits, and weasels, has a yearly population fluctuation that affects their populations in a specific area.
It is thought that their populations overall are in decline, as they are particularly sensitive to habitat loss and fragmentation from the large open grasslands they require being turned into farm land, grazing land, recreational areas and housing development.
Because they are particularly sensitive to habitat degradation and fragmentation caused by the large open grasslands they need being transformed into farm land, grazing land, recreational areas, and residential development, their populations are believed to be declining overall.
9. 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 stretches across much of Canada and into the northern United States. Wisconsin, for example, has a state constitution. 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 go quite far north to Canada and Greenland’s Arctic areas to breed. All hours of the day, they will be hunting lemmings, their favorite summer snack.
Due to their bright white plumage, snowy owls are easier to see than other owls if they are nearby. They are diurnal, unlike most owls, and thus active during the day. Fields, airports, and beaches are among the places they seek for hunting. Look for them on the ground, on rocks, or in the open.
Once they reach maturity, snowy owls become wanderers and are seldom seen around their birthplaces. Hundreds of miles apart, owls from the same nest that were followed have been discovered in opposing directions.