19 Different Types of Owls in North America

Different Types of Owls in North America
Photo by Jevgeni Fil

Owls are one of the most popular birds in North America. There are many different types of owls in North America, each with unique features.

Some of the most common types of owls in North America will be listed here on our blog.

Let’s go!

1. Northern Saw-Whet

The northern saw-whet owl is first on our list of types of owls in North America. It is a small owl native to North America.

It gets its name from its call, which sounds like a saw being sharpened on a whetstone.

These owls in North America are relatively common and can be found in many habitats, from forests to urban areas.

Northern saw-whet types of owls in North America are mostly brown or gray, with white markings on their belly and breast.

They have a round heads with large, bright eyes. These owls are small, with a body length of only 8-10 inches. They have a wingspan of only 16-20 inches.

Despite their small size, northern saw-whet owls are fierce predators. They hunt small mammals, such as mice and voles, which they can kill with a single bite.

These types of owls in North America are mainly active at night.

2. Barn Owl

The barn owl is also on our list of types of owls in North America and is a nocturnal predator that preys on small mammals, birds, and reptiles.

It has distinctive white facial discs that help to reflect sound waves, allowing the barn owl to locate its prey by sound alone.

The barn owl is found in open countryside worldwide and is a protected species in many countries.

The barn owl is a fascinating creature, and its unique hunting abilities make it a valuable asset to the ecosystem.

If you’re lucky enough to see one in the wild, appreciate this amazing animal.

3. Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl is a large, powerful owl with distinctive ear tufts.

It is the most widely distributed owl in the Americas and is found in various habitats, including forests, grasslands, and deserts.

Great Horned types of owls in North America are nocturnal predators and use their sharp talons and beaks to hunt a variety of prey, including small mammals, reptiles, and birds.

If you are lucky enough to spot a Great Horned Owl, you will likely see it perched atop a tree or hunting from a perch.

These types of owls in North America are relatively social and can often be found in pairs or small groups.

Great Horned types of owls in North America are fascinating creatures and are a great example of the beauty and diversity of nature.

4. Long-Eared Owl

The long-eared owl is a medium-sized owl with ear tufts nearly as long as its head.

It is a nocturnal predator that hunts small mammals, reptiles, and birds. The long-eared owl is found in North America, Europe, and Asia wooded areas.

These types of owls in North America get their name from their distinctive ear tufts, which are feather extensions that help to camouflage the owl in its forested habitat.

The long-eared owl has outstanding hearing, which it uses to locate its prey by sound. It also has excellent night vision, which it uses to see in low-light conditions.

The long-eared owl is relatively common but is not often seen because it is mostly active at night.

You will likely hear if you are lucky enough to see one of these types of owls in North America.

5. Short-Eared Owl

The Short-Eared Owl is a medium-sized owl with short, ear-like tufts of feathers on its head. It is a nocturnal bird, meaning it is active at night. 

The owl hunts for its prey by flying low over the ground and using its sharp eyesight to spot potential prey.

It will then pounce on its prey and kill it with its sharp talons. The Short-Eared Owl is found in open habitats such as grasslands and wetlands.

A migratory bird travels to different areas to find food and suitable habitat. The owl is also found in North and South America, Europe and Asia.

The Short-Eared Owl is not considered endangered at this time, but its numbers are declining in some areas due to habitat loss.

6. Flammulated Owl

The flammulated owl (Otus flammeolus) is a small owl native to the western United States and Mexico. It is a nocturnal bird of prey that preys on insects and small mammals.

The flammulated owl is a relatively small owl, with a length of 8-9 inches and a wingspan of 18-20 inches.

It has large, dark eyes and a round head with no ear tufts. The upper parts are brown with white spots, while the underparts are pale with brown streaks. The wings are long and slender, and the tail is fairly short.

These types of owls in North America are found in the western United States and Mexico. In the United States, it is found in Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. 

7. Whiskered Screech-Owl

Whiskered Screech types of owls in North America are small to medium-sized owls with long, ear-like tufts of feathers on their heads.

They are primarily found in Central and South America’s tropical forests but also parts of Mexico and the Caribbean.

These types of owls in North America are nocturnal hunters, using their sharp claws and beaks to catch small rodents and insects. Their diet can also include lizards, frogs, and small birds.

Whiskered Screech-Owls nest in tree cavities or abandoned nests of other birds. They typically lay 2-4 eggs per clutch, and the female does most of the incubating.

The eggs hatch after about 28 days, and the young owls fledge (leave the nest) after about 7-8 weeks.

8. Western Screech-Owl

The Western Screech-Owl is a small owl with a large head and big eyes. It is found in Central America, Southwestern United States, and Mexico.

The owl has two color phases, gray and red. The gray phase is more common in the west, and the red phase is more common in the east.

The Western Screech-Owl is a nocturnal bird of prey. It hunts small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.

The owl perches on a branch or post and scans the ground for prey. It silently glides to the ground when it sees something and captures it with its talons.

The Western Screech-Owl nests in tree cavities. The female types of owls in North America lay 2-5 white eggs. The eggs are incubated for 28-33 days.

9. Northern Pygmy Owl

The northern pygmy owl (Glaucidium gnome) is a tiny owl found in North America’s taiga and boreal forests.

Measuring just 7-8 inches in length, this owl is one of the smallest owls in the world.

Despite its small size, the northern pygmy owl is a fierce predator, feeding on small mammals, birds, and even reptiles.

The northern pygmy owl is a master of camouflage, and its brown and white plumage helps it blend in with its forest environment.

These types of owls in North America also have two distinct plumage phases – a summer phase with brown plumage and a winter phase with white plumage.

You’ll be treated to a truly amazing sight if you’re lucky enough to see a northern pygmy owl in the wild.

10. Elf Owl

The elf owl (Micrathene Whitney) is a tiny owl that lives in the deserts of the southwestern United States and Mexico.

These types of owls in North America are the smallest in North America and one of the smallest in the world.

Elf types of owls in North America are nocturnal predators, and they hunt insects, rodents, and other small animals.

Elf types of owls in North America are well-camouflaged and often roost in trees during the day. At night, they fly out to hunt for food.

Elf owls can squeeze through openings as small as 3 inches in diameter and often nest in cactus cavities.

If you’re lucky enough to spot an elf owl, you’ll be able to see its large eyes and ear tufts. Elf types of owls in North America are mostly brown and white. 

11. Burrowing Owl

The Burrowing Owl is next on our list of types of owls in North America. It is a small owl found in open countries across North and South America.

These owls get their name from their habit of living in burrows that they dig themselves or that have been abandoned by other animals.

Burrowing types of owls in North America are among the few owl species active during the day.

They are also unusual because they often hunt while walking or running on the ground rather than flying.

When hunting, they will typically perch on a low branch or fence post and wait for prey to come within range.

Burrowing types of owls in North America are threatened by habitat loss and human persecution.

They are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

12. Spotted Owl

The spotted owl is a bird of prey that lives in North America. It is a large owl with a wingspan of up to four feet.

The owl gets its name from its feathers’ black and white markings resembling spots.

The spotted owl is a nocturnal creature that is most active at night. It hunts small mammals such as rodents and squirrels.

The owl uses its sharp talons and beak to kill its prey. The spotted types of owls in North America are an endangered species.

This means that there are very few of them left in the wild. Their numbers have declined sharply due to habitat loss and hunting.

Despite their decline in numbers, spotted types of owls in North America are still fascinating creatures.

They have inspired artists, writers, and filmmakers. Some people even believe that the spotted owl is a symbol.

13. Boreal Owl

The Boreal Owl is a medium-sized owl with a round head and no ear tufts. It has yellow eyes and a black beak.

The upper parts of the Boreal Owl are brown with white spots, while the underparts are white with brown streaks. 

These types of owls in North America are found in coniferous forests of North America and Europe. It preys on small mammals and birds.

14. Eastern Screech-Owl

The eastern screech-owl is a small owl with a large head and big eyes. It is found in eastern North America, from southern Canada to northern Florida.

This owl is gray or brown, with streaks or bars of light and dark on its feathers. It has a white “bib” on its chest and a black “mask” around its eyes.

Eastern screech owls are small, only about 9 inches (23 cm) long. They have a wingspan of about 20 inches (51 cm).

These types of owls in North America live in woodlands, where they nest in holes in trees. They eat insects, rodents, and small birds.

15. Barred Owl

The barred owl is a large owl with a round head and dark eyes. It has a gray-brown body with white streaks on its breast and wings. The barred owl is found in North and Central America. 

It is a nocturnal bird, meaning it is active at night. The barred owl eats small mammals such as mice, voles, and shrews. It also eats birds, reptiles, and amphibians. 

The barred owl hunts quietly, perching on a branch and waiting for its prey to come close. It then swoops down and grabs the prey with its sharp talons.

The barred owl is a popular bird of prey among birdwatchers. It is also a common subject of Native American folklore.

16. Great Gray Owl

The great gray owl is a large owl of the family Strigidae. The scientific name is Strix nebulosa. The great gray owl is the largest owl by a length in North America.

It is a rare bird found in the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska. It is also found in the Rocky Mountains and the far northern parts of the United States.

The great gray owl is a very shy bird and is not often seen by humans. It is mostly active at night and hunts by listening to its prey’s sounds.

It hunts small animals, such as rodents and birds. The great gray owl is a protected species in North America.

Hunting, trapping, and harassment of these types of owls in North America are all illegal.

17. Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl

The Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl is a small owl with a rounded head and no ear tufts. It has large eyes and a prominent beak.

The upper parts are rusty-brown, and the underparts are streaked with white. 

This owl occurs in woodlands, especially those with oaks, across much of the southwestern United States and Mexico.

It preys primarily on insects and other small animals. The Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl is listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN.

However, due to habitat loss and other anthropogenic pressures, the population of these types of owls in North America is declining in some areas.

18. Snowy Owl

The Snowy Owl is a beautiful bird of prey that is native to the Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

North America’s regal types of owls are easily recognizable by their white plumage and striking yellow eyes.

Snowy types of owls in North America are excellent hunters and have a diet that consists mostly of small mammals such as rodents, rabbits, and lemmings.

Snowy types of owls in North America are fairly large birds with wingspans that can reach up to five feet.

These majestic birds are most active at night, which makes them well-adapted to their cold, dark habitat.

During the day, Snowy Owls often perch on tree branches or on the ground, where they can watch for their next meal.

You will surely be amazed by its beauty and grace if you’re lucky enough to spot a Snowy Owl in the wild. 

19. Northern Hawk Owl

The northern hawk owl is the last on our list of types of owls in North America and is a beautiful bird of prey found in wooded areas of North America.

It is a small owl with a round head and bright yellow eyes. The northern hawk owl is an excellent hunter, using its sharp talons to catch its prey.

This owl is a great addition to any bird sanctuary and will surely delight visitors with its stunning plumage and hunting skills.

Conclusion

There are many different types of owls in North America. The most common are the great horned owl, the barn owl, and the elf owl.

Each of these types of owls in North America on our blog has different characteristics that make it unique. 

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