Idaho is a birder’s heaven. The state contains several rural, farm, and wilderness locations where people can see a variety of spectacular creatures.
It’s also close to Canada, so you can see many northern birds, but it’s also far enough south to see many warmer-weather species.
But don’t worry if you’re not a bird expert; this list discusses the different types of owls in Idaho.
If all you want to do is identify some of the many distinct owl species that call Idaho home, you’ll find plenty in populous locations like Boise or Idaho Falls.
If you’re dead set on seeing owls, head to the panhandle in the state’s northwestern corner. This region of Idaho has more owls than any other in the state.
Now, let’s start this list of several types of owls in Idaho!
1. Long-Eared Owl
The first on this list of the different types of owls in Idaho is Lengthy-eared owls (Asio otus), which get their name from their unusually long ear tufts. The tufts are black with buff or orange highlights. Between their bright eyes are two white lines. They have slender bodies with mottled brown bodies.
These nocturnal birds forage in grasslands or open country and roost in trees. Their hoots, squeals, and barks are frequently used to identify them. They are very vocal. They mainly move at night, but they can travel quite large distances.
Researchers have identified birds that migrated from Canada to Mexico in a single year. Those who reside in or visit Idaho should seek this bird year-round in the state’s south and panhandle during the mating season.
2. Great Horned Owl
The great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) is well-known for its appearance in films such as the Harry Potter series and its distinctive hoot. These enormous owls can weigh up to 5 1/2 pounds. They have large claws and are excellent fliers, allowing them to take down formidable prey such as ospreys and falcons.
It takes 28 pounds of force to pry their claws apart once they’ve clenched them around something. These birds can be found throughout North America, from Mexico to the far north of Alaska. Of the different types of owls in Idaho, it is one of the most frequent, living in deserts, mountains, woodlands, and prairies.
The great horned owl is equally at home in cities, suburbs, and wilderness settings. All of this means you have a strong probability of seeing one. It can be found across Idaho. Look for the massive bird with golden eyes and lengthy hair tufts around its ears. They can be gray or cinnamon with a cream or light gray body and barring.
Despite what you may have heard, they cannot rotate their heads 360 degrees. However, they can swivel their heads over 180 degrees, creating the impression that they are turning their heads entirely around. Because these birds cannot move their eyes from side to side, they move their heads back and forth.
3. Great Gray Owl
Great gray owls (Asio flammeus) are among the largest owls in the United States. They are larger than Great Horned Owls but slightly lighter. They are types of owls in Idaho that are roughly the size of a goose and a crow.
They are gray with silver, white, and brown streaks or bars, as the name implies. Their eyes are bright yellow, with brown circles surrounding them and a white “X” separating them. They have a broad, spherical head and no ear tufts.
Because they dislike being around humans or human settlements, they are difficult to locate. They fly quietly and don’t sing out often, so you’ll normally observe them rather than hear them.
Great Gray Owls hunt tiny mammals in coniferous woods. This owl is solely found in Idaho’s panhandle. They normally do not relocate unless they fly further south or to lower elevations during the winter.
4. Barn Owl
The barn owl (Tyto alba) earned its name from its preference for living in abandoned barns and other rural structures. They are types of owls in Idaho that will also nest in tree cavities. They hunt by flying across wide open spaces and listening for prey. They have amazing hearing, as you might expect.
Its unique visage identifies it as a barn owl. Their faces are pristine white, and heart-shaped, and they have huge, black eyes. Their wings and back are speckled gray, golden, or cinnamon. Because the undersides of their wings and chest are white, they seem all-white from below when flying. They do not have ear tufts like the great horned owl.
Young barn owls will fly far away from where they were hatched to find their area, but once there, they will stay for life. Barn owls can be found across the United States and Mexico, except in a few central northern states such as Montana and North Dakota. The owl can be found across Idaho, so your chances of spotting one are good.
5. Short-Eared Owl
If you guessed that these owls (Asio flammeus) have short ear tufts, you’re correct. Owls have ear tufts that aid in transmitting sound to their ears, allowing them to hunt and detect potential predators. Ear tufts of short-eared owls, one of the types of owls in Idaho, are little, like little horns.
They are distinguished by brown and white mottling framed by black bars. The cream face has dark black accents around the yellow eyes. Their striking appearance makes them easy to identify, but the fact that they are active during the day makes them even more visible.
They also have a characteristic, moth-like flight pattern that aids in identification. They do not prefer wooded places, unlike many other owls; instead, they prefer broad meadows and grasslands, where they can sit on the ground and listen for prey. They will then fly up and dive down to get their prey. They even build their nests in the dirt.
6. Barred Owl
The barred owl (Strix varia) is about the same size as the great horned owl, although it weighs much less. They are brown and white, with prominent bands running throughout their bodies. The breast bars are vertical, whereas the remainder of their bodies has horizontal bars.
These types of owls in Idaho aren’t raucous birds. They normally remain silent, though you may occasionally hear them call out during the day. Barred owls are like forested places, whether in a marsh or mountain. They are not found in towns or on the grasslands.
They are found throughout the eastern United States and into Canada. The birds’ range has extended in recent decades, and there are now populations in the Pacific Northwest. They do not migrate throughout their lifetimes. They stay in one location, constructing their habitat in trees.
Moreso, if they can’t find food, they’ll go large distances to find it. The barred owl hunts the great horned owl while the barred owl pushes the endangered spotted owl out of its territory. Only the northernmost tip of the Idaho panhandle is home to barred owls.
7. Northern Pygmy-Owl
On this list of the types of owls in Idaho is Northern Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium gnoma), a miniature owl, as the name suggests. They are brown with small white dots on their heads and larger white patches on their wings and back. They have two patches on the back of their neck that imitate eyes to scare away other predators, such as Great Horned Owls.
Because they dwell in woods and nest in conifers, they are common in the Pacific Northwest and much of the Rocky Mountains. Bird hunters in Idaho can discover this small owl all year long, except in the southwest corner, where they rarely wander. They do not migrate and spend their entire lives in the same region.
During the coldest months of the year, they will migrate to lower elevations. They, like many other owls, build their nests in tree cavities. They do not, however, create the hole. They are looking for holes caused by other animals or by natural degradation.
Northern pygmy owls feed on small birds, reptiles, insects, and animals, although they may even catch a larger bird, such as a quail. They go out hunting during the day. These owls spend the entire year in Idaho.
8. Burrowing Owl
Most owls reside in trees or shrubs, but burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia )have long legs that allow them to run along the ground in prairies, deserts, and grasslands. They forage for rodents and subsequently reside in tunnels that other species, such as ground squirrels and prairie dogs, have abandoned. They will even go for little rodents and take over their burrows.
If it is not an option, they are types of owls in Idaho that will reside in pipes or tubes. They’ve adapted to underground existence by acquiring a high tolerance for carbon dioxide, which accumulates there.
To identify them, look for long-legged owls with mottled brown coloring and brilliant yellow eyes. They have round heads. Burrowing owls nest in Idaho and migrate south for the rest of the year.
9. Western Screech Owl
Next up on our list of the types of owls in Idaho is Western screech owls (Otus kennicottii), which are approximately the size of a robin. The screech they make is anything but small. They’re hard to spot in the wild since they blend perfectly with their surroundings. Sit outside at night and listen to their distinctive screeches if you want to spot a screech owl.
Their body is gray, brown, or red at the base, with pale breasts. Their body is covered with dark streaks that appear quite realistic. They are nocturnal and live in the holes of trees and cacti, but they will also live in a nest box in your backyard if you give one to them.
They are prevalent in suburban regions and will even live in urban parks. These small owls can be found all year in Idaho. While they prefer to eat little rodents, they are strong birds capable of lifting a full-grown rabbit.
10. Flammulated Owl
The Flammulated owl (Psiloscops flammeolus) is a small bird. It’s no bigger than a sparrow. These are night-hunting owls that spend the day in trees. They swoop out at night to catch their insect food and consume it.
Additionally, they are found in coniferous forests in the western United States. Only during the breeding season can you see them in a few sites in the Idaho panhandle. They spend the entire year in Mexico.
If you only heard their call, you could easily mistake them for something much larger. They have a loud, booming hoot that makes them appear enormous. This helps them frighten off other predators.
Look for a little owl with feathery ear tufts and vertical belly stripes. They have grayish backs and black eyes. Equally important to note, they aren’t left out of this list of the amazing types of owls in Idaho!
11. Northern Saw-Whet Owl
Northern saw-whet owls (Aegolius acadicus) are little, approximately the size of a robin, with a brown and white mottled body. Their eyes are large and bright, and they have a heart-shaped face with a little white V-mark between them. They’re hard to spot, especially at night, but if you listen to their harsh call, you’ll know they’re approaching.
They nest in cavities in trees at around eye height during the day, so if you look closely, you might spot them. But don’t wake the sleeping birds! They only dwell in forests, especially old trees, so don’t look for them in towns or open places. These are one of the types of owls in Idaho that travel great distances to breed.
Moving on, they feed on small rodents such as mice and shrews. They will also consume birds such as chickadees, juncos, waxwings, and sparrows. They are found throughout the United States, with limited breeding populations in the south and permanent populations in the north, as well as the Rocky Mountains and western Coastal ranges.
The rest of the country has nonbreeding populations. The northern saw-whet owl can be seen all year in Idaho.
12. Boreal Owl
The northern two-thirds of Idaho is home to boreal owls (Aegolius funereus). They live in the same approximate area their entire lives, but if they can’t find food in their neighborhood, they will travel. They like high altitudes and keep to forests.
If you live near a mountain or a forested region, you can set up a nest box in your backyard, and they may come to dwell there. These owls prey on tiny mammals at night. However, they do not aggressively hunt.
Like other types of owls in Idaho, they prefer to sit in a tree and wait for a rat or mouse to run across the ground. They then launch an attack.
Uniquely, Boreal owls are cute. They have a huge square head and are about the size of a robin. They have a brown body with white mottling and a predominantly white face. Females are double the size of males.
13. Snowy Owl
Snowy owls (Bubo scandiacus) are also on our list of the different types of owls in Idaho and are eye-catching birds. Males are primarily white with bright, cat-like golden eyes, and their plumage whitens as they age. Females and juveniles have dark brown or black patches.
During the long summer days, snowy owls hunt for animals such as lemmings and ptarmigans in the Arctic Circle. During the winter, they migrate south to Canada, Alaska, and the far north of the United States. They are usually seen sitting on the ground near their hunting grounds.
They’ll also perch on telephone or power poles, fences, hay bales, and abandoned constructions. They examine the tundra or fields where they prey by flying low to the ground. In Idaho, these birds can be seen in the northern half of the state during the winter and in the remainder only if food is low in their typical area. The snowy owl is a rare sighting, especially because their numbers are dwindling.
14. Northern Hawk Owl
The Northern Hawk Owl (Strix occidentalis) derives its name from the fact that it looks like a hawk but is an owl. They hunt by sight, have long tails, and perch like hawks at the tops of trees. Their heads are spherical, their eyes are yellow, and their bodies are mottled gray, brown, and white.
They also have gray faces with a dark border, giving them an owl-like appearance. They hunt mostly during the day, but you can observe them seeking food at night in the woodlands where they live.
These birds dwell in northern Canada, but if food is low during the winter, they will migrate south to the United States. Birdwatchers in Idaho may be fortunate enough to observe them in the state’s far north. This wraps up our list of the various types of owls in Idaho!