We just created an essay about the various hawk species in Arizona, so we also decided to cover the several types of owls in Arizona.
Arizona has a warm temperature and lies squarely in the route of hundreds of bird species, including numerous owl species.
Even while many owls live in Arizona all year, a few migrate from the south and aren’t year-round inhabitants.
According to multiple sources such as allaboutbirds.org and neotropical.birds.cornell.edu, these types of owls in Arizona have a range.
In our blog essay, we’ll go over those species, where you can find them in Arizona, and some interesting facts about them.
1. Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owls are first on our list of types of owls in Arizona. These birds of prey live in Arizona and throughout North America all year.
They are formidable hunters and deadly predators capable of taking down enormous prey and would frequently prey on other birds of prey of the same size. The Great Horned Owl is distinguished by its huge size, furrowed brow and ear tufts, and yellow eyes.
They are fairly common and can be found in forests, marshes, deserts, and more urban places such as cities, suburbs, and parks. The Great Horned Owl is somewhat larger than the Red-tailed Hawk, and the two raptors are known adversaries. They are nocturnal, but around nightfall, they can be observed perched on fence posts or on tree branches, waiting for darkness to fall.
2. Burrowing owl
The Burrowing Owl distribution in Arizona divides the state in two, with the northern half only breeding and the southern half having a year-round population. Burrowing types of owls in Arizona are the only raptors that nest and roost underground, generally in abandoned groundhog or prairie dog burrows.
They have been found to excavate their own burrows on occasion. They have sandy skin, lengthy legs, and yellow eyes.
During the day, they hunt on the ground and ferociously defend their dens from intruders. Burrowing types of owls in Arizona are most active in the early morning and late afternoon, especially in places where prairie dogs and other ground-dwelling creatures are known to live.
3. Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
The Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, which is only found in southeastern Arizona and the southern tip of Texas, is considered threatened in the United States but is still common in Central and South America. As a result, they are considered rare in both states but can still be found in mesquite woodlands bordering rivers and deserts dominated by saguaro cacti.
This species is also active throughout the day, feeding on songbirds, insects, small animals, and reptiles. They have made their home in their small town in southeast Arizona.
4. Elf Owl
Elf Owls are next on our list of types of owls in Arizona. It breeds in the southern half of Arizona and is the tiniest owl in the state and the globe, approximately the size of a sparrow!
Look for them in Arizona in the spring and summer as they migrate south to warmer climates in Mexico for the winter. Elf Owls are distinguished by their small stature, lack of ear tufts that give them a round head, and brownish-gray feathers.
They consume insects and arthropods but occasionally small lizards and blind snakes. Elf types of owls in Arizona are considered endangered in California, where they have nearly become extinct owing to habitat degradation and as threatened in Arizona.
5. Flammulated Owl
The Flammulated Owl has a very sparse breeding population in Arizona, primarily in central Arizona between Flagstaff and Phoenix in National Forests. They are around the size of the Northern Pygmy Owl, if not slightly smaller, and are one of Arizona’s and North America’s tiniest types of owls in Arizona.
Their primary food source is flying insects, which they seek at night. They have reddish gray feathers and are effectively camouflaged, looking similar to screech owls but with shorter ear tufts. Surprisingly, despite their small size, they have one of the lowest-pitched hoots of an owl.
6. Northern pygmy owl
The Northern Pygmy Owl is a small owl that mostly feeds on songbirds and is found chiefly in northern and eastern Arizona. Northern Pygmy Owls are diurnal or active during the day, giving you a good chance of seeing one.
During the day, they sit very motionless and quiet, preparing to surprise attack their target for a meal. Northern Pygmy types of owls in Arizona, unlike other varieties of owls, do not frequently accept man-made nest boxes.
They are around the size of an American robin but have been known to take prey up to three times their size. Their small stature, yellow beaks and eyes, and white speckles on their heads help to identify them.
7. Mexican Spotted Owl
The Mexican Spotted Owl is one of three spotted owl subspecies and one of the largest types of owls in Arizona in North America. Both the US and Mexican governments have declared it a menace.
They can be found in limited numbers in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and Nevada. The global breeding population of the Spotted Owl, including this subspecies, is estimated to be only 15,000 owls due to habitat degradation.
More than half of these are found in the United States, with roughly 40% in Mexico. Another factor contributing to their population decline is the Barred Owl, which is larger, more aggressive, and known to drive them away.
8. Whiskered Screech-Owl
This species has a relatively limited range in Arizona and worldwide. Whiskered Screech-owls are only found in the state’s southeastern portion, near the border with Mexico and New Mexico. They resemble the Western Screech-owl described above but are slightly smaller.
Whiskered types of owls in Arizona are prevalent in oak woodlands at higher elevations and can be found alongside Western Screech-owls in canyon bottoms in southern Arizona. They hunt from nightfall to dawn and nest in natural oak or sycamore tree cavities and those abandoned by woodpeckers.
9. Western Screech- Owl
They can be found in open woodlands and urban places such as parks and cities throughout Arizona. Western Screech-owls do not screech like their cousin, the Eastern Screech-owl, but rather produce a “toot toot” sound.
They nest in tree cavities, as shown in the image, but will also use nest boxes if given. Screech-owls are small but effective predators, capable of taking down prey as large as their own bodies, such as rabbits. They also have excellent camouflage and may mix in with their surroundings, making them difficult to detect.
10. Northern Saw-Whet Owl
The bulk of Arizona possesses this small owl year-round, with the southwestern corner of the state having a non-breeding status. The Northern Saw-whet Owl is distinguished by its cat-like face, yellow eyes, and diminutive size.
Saw-whet types of owls in Arizona earned their name from their sounds, which sounded like a saw being sharpened by a whetting stone. Between January and May, look for these secretive small owls near forests on peaceful nights.
I’ve never heard of a whetting stone, but their call sounds like a “too too too.” Like many other owls, they roost quietly in trees and are difficult to notice.
11. Short-Eared Owl
Short-Eared Owl is next on our list of types of owls in Arizona. Because short-eared owls do not reproduce in Arizona, your best chance of seeing one is in the winter.
If you want to see one, look for it in open settings like grasslands and fields at dawn or dusk. They move north to their mating sites in Canada and Alaska every year.
They are the most numerous owls worldwide and are frequently observed throughout the day. Their short ear tufts can be seen in the photograph above, but they frequently lay flat and are difficult to discern.
The Pueo is a subspecies of the Short-eared Owl, Hawaii’s sole native owl. Despite their extensive distribution, their aggregate population is estimated to be in serious decline.
12. Long-Eared Owl
Long-eared Owls can be seen throughout most of Arizona all year. These types of owls in Arizona are cleverly hidden and may be difficult to find unless you know where and when to look.
They have huge ear tufts that give them a puzzled appearance rather than an angry one like the Great Horned Owl. Long-eared Owls prefer dense foliage and woodlands for breeding while hunting in open grasslands and meadows.
They primarily hunt small mammals such as mice and young rabbits but occasionally prey on larger birds. If you wish to see them, look for their deep, low hoots that may be heard from a considerable distance at night and long and slender owl pellets on the ground.
13. Barn Owl
Lastly, Barn Owls spend the entire year in Arizona. These stunning birds of prey are distinguished by their whiteish, heart-shaped cheeks.
They gained their name by nesting in man-made structures like abandoned buildings and barns. If you want to see one, look for flashes of pale white wings or listen for their screeches at night, but they are notoriously difficult to locate.
They are stealthy and effective nocturnal hunters who consume their victims completely, bones and all.
They then regurgitate the unnecessary portions as pellets. Barn Owls, like other types of owls in Arizona, have incredible low-light vision.
However, their ability to track and hunt prey based only on sound is unparalleled by any other species of animal on the globe.