Owls are intriguing and intelligent, which appeals to a wide range of people. They can be found, and they might be small enough to fit in your palm or big enough to hold a hawk. In this essay, we’ll look at all of the different owl species found in the United States.
TYPES OF OWLS IN THE UNITED STATES
Over the United States and Canada, it is believed that about 21 species of owls exist. The sightings of a few vagrants are included in this total. Let’s take a look at photos of each and discover what habitats they prefer, as well as where you may find them.
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
With the exception of the states along the country’s northern border, where they are uncommon or missing, barn owls may be found year-round throughout most of the United States. Grasslands, fields, ranches, agricultural land, and strips of forest are some of the open habitats where they may be found.
Barn owls prefer to build nests in barns, attics, and church steeples, among other man-made constructions with a lot of eaves and beams. One of the methods they earned their name was this. Tree cavities, caverns, and cliffsides are also used for nesting. During the day, Barn Owls are practically invisible since they are so nocturnal.
They low over fields at dusk and through the night, using their exceptional hearing to detect mice and other rodents. If you see them in low light, their huge, ghostly white face and belly may be a very frightening sight!
2. BARRED OWL
- Scientific name: Strix varia
- Length: 16.9-19.7 in
- Wingspan: 39.0-43.3 in
- Weight: 16.6-37.0 oz
Although there are some that range in the Pacific northwest, the beautiful brown and white striped barred owl is exclusively found in the eastern United States and Canada. These birds prefer to stay close to home, often barely leaving a ten-mile radius.
They do not like to be in the same location as the great horned owl, despite their similar range. Barred owl eggs, juvenile birds, and even adults are all targets for great horned owls.
Barred owls favor forest with large trails of uninterrupted woodland, particularly near water. During the day, you may observe them roosting in trees. These are, nonetheless, most active at night while hunting.
Sounds like “who cooks for you?” is how one describes their loud and different hooting call. “Who is cooking for you all?” A mated pair will sing a variety of hoots, honks, caws, and gurgles throughout the course of their courtship.
3. BOREAL OWL
- Scientific name: Aegolius funereus
- Length: 8.3-11.0 in
- Weight: 3.3-7.6 oz
- Wingspan: 21.6-24.4 in
The boreal forest, which stretches across Alaska, Canada, and Eurasia, is home to Baritowls. Its name implies that they live in it. There is a population that has a range that stretches from northern Idaho and Montana to Colorado, but not many people make it all the way down to the continental United States.
They’re difficult to see, especially during the day. They’re strange birds. Each day, they roost in a different tree, so don’t expect to find them in the same spot you saw them yesterday. If you live in their range, however, they will utilize a nestbox.
Little owls with huge, square heads, stocky bodies, and short tails that are about the size of a robin. Before swooping down and grabbing their victim with their talons, they perch and wait for small animals and birds to come by at night.
They’re tiny owls with enormous, square heads, stocky bodies, and short tails that are roughly the size of a robin. Before swooping down and capturing their prey with their talons, they perch at night and wait for prey like tiny animals and birds.
4. BURROWING OWL
- Scientific name: Athene cunicularia
- Length: 7.5-9.8 in
- Wingspan: 21.6 in
- Weight: 5.3 oz
Year-round, Burrowing Owls may be found in most parts of Texas and Florida, as well as along the United States’ southern frontier. They head north into the central and western United States. During the breeding season, it is active throughout the summer.
These little owls reside in burrows and have long legs. These burrows are sometimes dug by the animals themselves, and other times they take over burrows abandoned by prairie dogs or ground squirrels. Pipes, buckets, and culverts have all been discovered to be utilized for burrows by these animals.
Open environments such as deserts and grasslands are where you’ll find them. They’re difficult to detect because they’re so tiny in relation to the broad open terrain they call home, and when they’re in their burrows, barely protrude above the horizon. At daybreak and dusk, burrowing owls are most active.
5. 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 most of the eastern half of the United States, this little owl can be found year-round.
Gray, brown, or “red” (really a reddish brown) are the three plumage tones of eastern screech owls. The patterns on their feathers, whatever the color, help them blend in with tree bark and provide excellent camouflage.
Their name may imply that they emit a high-pitched squeal, although 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 if you install an appropriately sized nest box. Farmlands, city parks, and suburban communities are all home to these tiny owls. Anywhere with some tree cover is ideal.
6. ELF OWL
In the United States, elf owls are uncommon. They may be found in southern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and portions of western Texas during the breeding season. During the non-breeding months, they return to Mexico.
At less than six inches in length, the elf owl is considered the world’s smallest raptor. Elf owls have brownish-gray feathers, are small in size, lack ear-tufts that give them a round head, and have no ear tufts. Insects and arthropods are the primary sources of food for these animals, although lizards are occasionally eaten.
Only at night do these owls become active. Along canyon and desert highways, you may hear them. Their cries have been characterized as “whining” and akin to that of a puppy. Around lights that attract insects, they may hunt.
7. FERRUGINOUS PYGMY OWL
- Scientific name: Glaucidium brasilianum
- Length: 6.5 -7 in
- Weight: 2.2 – 2.7 oz
- Wingspan: 14.5-16 in
The ferruginous pygmy owl is only found in Central and South America, and it is considered endangered in the United States.
Because of this, they are uncommon in both states, although they may be seen in mesquite woodlands beside rivers and in deserts dominated by saguaro cactus on occasion.
During dusk and dawn, this species may hunt, while during the day, it feeds on songbirds, insects, tiny mammals, and lizards.
8. FLAMMULATED OWL
- Scientific name: Psiloscops flammeolus
- Length: 5.9-6.7 in
- Weight: 1.5-2.2 oz
Only in the United States will you find a flammulated owl. While little is known about their migration, they migrate from Mexico during the breeding season. In mature mountain woods, they may be found in tiny areas throughout the west.
These owls are very tiny and spend much of their time perched on the crowns of big evergreen trees, making them difficult to locate. Sound is probably the easiest way to find them. A low-pitched, repeated hoot is heard from them.
Flying insects, such as crickets, moths, and beetles, are the main source of food for them at night. They’re well disguised and look like screech-owls, yet with shorter ear-tufts, have reddish gray feathers.
9. 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, yet they are uncommon in the continental United States. Some northwestern states have a year-round range, while others around the Great Lakes and New England have a potential winter range.
The neck of these huge owls is adorned with a strip of white feathers with black in the center, and their heads are round. Voles, gophers, chipmunks, and other small mammals are hunted in meadows and clearings by great gray owls that reside in dense evergreen forests of the north. In the United States, They prefer pine and fir woods that border montane meadows.
Gray owls do not construct their own nests. An old raven or raptor nest, the top of a shattered tree, or even human-made platforms or clumps of mistletoe will be used as nests. Their hearing is so sharp that they may hunt animals down by tuning, and their robust talons may break through solid packed snow to grasp them.
10. 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 on either side of their head, great horned owls are one of the most widespread and identifiable owls in North America. Over most of Canada, the United States, and Mexico, they are year-round.
Forests, swamps, deserts, and city parks are just a few of the habitats in which these owls may be found. Most of them have a cool or warm brown plumage that varies in color.
Mammalian, avian, reptile, insect, and fish are among the foods that great horned owls consume. The sound owls make is often referred to as their hoot, which is what most people associate with the sound.
11. 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
Migratory long-eared owls are common. While others have chosen to stay in the US, Several arrive in the US throughout the winter and spend their summers in Canada. Pine stands or woods with grassland and pastures are their preferred habitats.
Their bright yellow eyes, white V-shaped face pattern, round face disc, and long feather tufts that point straight up can make them look perpetually startled. Great horned owls may be distinguished from each other by their very rounded face with a white V.
Roosting in thick woodlands provides them with excellent camouflage and a quiet nature, making them difficult to spot.
On spring and summer evenings, you may hear their long and low hoots, but they’re mostly quiet during the winter. During the non-breeding season, however, they roost in flocks, making them easier to see than a solitary owl.
12. 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 species of owls in North America, with three subspecies found in Mexico. Both the US and the IUCN have classified it as endangered. Both national and municipal governments in Mexico You can find them all year round in New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, and Colorado, but they are quite uncommon outside of Mexico.
The Mexican spotted owl has a light face and is dark brownish-gray in color with white stripes. There are no ear tufts and their skull is rounded.
These owls are uncommon and difficult to locate, despite their huge size. Forests with pine-oak or mixed evergreen, including Douglas fir and pine, are home to the Mexican subspecies.
They breed and roost in small canyons with steep walls. The majority of spotted owls’ diets consist of rodents, rabbits, gophers, bats, smaller owls, birds, and insects. While they may begin at dusk, nighttime is the preferred hunting time.
13. 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 extends down into the northern United States, however they are mostly found in Canada and Alaska.
When they turn up in the United States, these owls aren’t usually migrating. The population is typically up when the breeding season has passed, but the number of their prey animals has decreased. As a result, several owls will travel significant distances to locate food. Birdwatchers will be pleased!
They have enormous, spherical heads with yellow eyes and white skin, much like many owls. They, like hawks, hunt during the day around dawn and dusk, perched on trees before swooping after prey. Like hawks, they have exceptional eyesight and may see prey from half a mile away.
Lakeshores, meadows, and wooded farmlands are common when they reach the United States.
14. 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 are home to the common northern pygmy-owl. While they’re active during daylight, they’re small enough to see without keeping your eyes peeled, and while they perch waiting for prey, you’ll still want to keep an eye on them.
To make locating them easier, try to learn what they sound like and how they call. Monitor the activities of groups of birds. They’ll often mob and attempt to scare a northern pygmy-owl if they find one. Since it frequently eats tiny song birds, they don’t want this owl around.
The heads of northern pygmy-owls are extremely circular, with no ear tufts. Their head and back are brown with white speckles, while their belly has vertical brown stripes.
15. 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 have a spherical skull and yellow eyes that make them Northern. These owls are infamous for being difficult to spot because of their tiny size, in addition to a few other factors.
When they’re perched motionlessly on a branch, their mottled brown plumage blends in easily with the trees around them. These owls are mostly nocturnal, so you won’t encounter them during the day. They’re also naturally Stealthy.
Learning their call and listening for them at night, particularly between January and May when they call the most frequently, is the best bet for finding a northern saw-whet owl. They are known as the “saw-whet” owl because of their peculiar cry, which resembles a blade being sharpened on a whetstone. A succession of whistled tones of the same pitch make up their too-too-too call.
They are year-round residents of the northeast, west coast, and western mountains, but visitors to most other states during the winter. They prefer thick, mature woods and eat mostly tiny mammals like mice and voles, with a few insects thrown in for good measure.
16. SHORT-EARED OWL
- Scientific name: Asio flammeus
- Length: 15 in
- Wingspan: 38 in
- Weight: 12 oz
The summer is spent almost entirely in Canada, Alaska, and the northern United States by short-eared owls. Throughout the United States, they go to the center and south. In the winter, it’s found in the northwest, where it may stay year-round.
They have ear tuft feathers, but they are so small that they are virtually never visible. Their name implies this. Marshes, gravel and rock quarries, fields, woodlots, and thickets are all good places to look during the winter. In close connection to the numbers of their prey, such as moles, rats, rabbits, and weasels, their populations in a particular region may fluctuate yearly.
Because they are especially sensitive to habitat destruction and fragmentation from the huge open grasslands they need, their populations are thought to be declining overall.
They can travel across open water and are found in a variety of regions across the globe.
17. 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, but each year during the winter, this owl has been migrating farther south into the United States. The number of owls and their whereabouts in the United States Year to year, it can fluctuate quite a bit.
During the summer, these lovely owls go all the way north to Canada’s and Greenland’s Arctic territories to breed. During the day, they’ll pursue lemmings, their favorite summer meal.
Because of their bright white plumage, snowy owls are less difficult to see than other owls. They are diurnal, like most other owls, and are active during the day. They favor hunting in wide-open areas, such as fields and beaches. Look for them perched out in the open, or on the ground on snowy beaches.
Once they reach adulthood, snowy owls are wanderers who don’t usually remain nearby. Hundreds of miles apart, owls from the same nest that were tracked have been discovered in opposing directions.
18. CALIFORNIA SPOTTED OWL
- Scientific name: Strix occidentalis occidentalis
- Length: 18.5-18.9 in
- Weight: 17.6-24.7 oz
- Wingspan: 39.8 in
California spotted owls may be found in a few isolated places throughout the state throughout the year, but they are exceedingly uncommon. Because of the old-growth forest logging, the spotted owl’s habitat, its population has drastically declined. Survival is also difficult due to competition with barred owls.
With broad, rounded wings, short tails, and round heads, spotted owls are somewhat smaller than barred owls. They have mostly dark brown plumage with white dappling on them.
A white “X” insignia on their face disks aids in the identification of individuals. Spotted owls, like most owls, are active at night, hunting for small mammals like mice. On still nights near woodlands, their loud, deep hoots may be heard for up to a mile.
19. NORTHERN SPOTTED OWL
- Scientific name: Strix occidentalis caurina
- Length: 18.5-18.9 in
- Weight: 17.6-24.7 oz
- Wingspan: 39.8 in
The northern spotted owl, the last of the spotted owl subspecies on our list, may be found in coastal California, Oregon, and Washington.
Mature conifer woodlands with extensive and unbroken canopies are required by this subspecies. Their overall coloration is dark brown rather than gray, despite the fact that they look similar to barred owls.
Small to medium-sized mammals, insects, and small birds are all eaten by spotted owls. Extra food is sometimes cached in tree limbs or beneath logs.
Because of habitat destruction, the spotted owl, which includes this subspecies, is listed as endangered. There are just 15,000 owls globally that breed. The barred owl, which is bigger, more aggressive, and known to drive them away when they share the same range, is another factor that contributes to their declining population.
20. 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
The coast of western North America and many western states in the United States are home to western screech-owls. There is year-round activity.
The eastern and western varieties look virtually identical when seen visually. They have distinct ways of hooting, though. The western screech owl has a succession of quick hoots, while the eastern variety has a descending whinny. Their ranges don’t overlap often.
They may be found in both rural and urban woods, nesting in tree holes. Their neatly disguised feathers make it difficult to detect them when they’re hiding inside tree holes. With stocky bodies and short tails, they’re little robin-sized owls. When they’re roosting in holes during the day, their mostly gray-brown plumage with streaky undersides blends in exceptionally well against trees.
21. WHISKERED SCREECH-OWL
- Scientific name: Megascops trichopsis
- Length: 6.9 – 7.4 in
- Weight: 3 – 3.5 oz
- Wingspan: 15.7-19.7 in
This species may be found in southern Arizona and New Mexico, but its primary habitat is Mexico and portions of Central America. They are somewhat smaller than the preceding Western screech-owl and seem to be identical to it.
In the lower parts of canyons in southern Arizona, Whiskered Screech-owls may be seen alongside Western Screech-owls in oak woodlands at higher elevations. They dwell in natural oak or sycamore tree holes, or ones carved by woodpeckers, and hunt from dusk till daybreak.