9 Types of Owls in Oklahoma

Types of Owls in Oklahoma
Photo by Erik_Karits

Owls are fascinating animals, and there are many types of owls in Oklahoma.

They are stunning and unusual, and if you can witness them in action when hunting, you will understand just how strong they are.

Furthermore, they can be harder to locate than many other bird species.

All through the year, various migrating birds, including owls, pass through Oklahoma.

You have more chances to see owls in the Sooner State because many others remain there all year.

You have a much higher chance of sighting an owl if you live in one of the state’s more rural areas. 

However, you can still spot a few owls hanging out even if you live in the center of Oklahoma City.

Owls are waiting to be seen, whether you’re searching during the chilly winter months or engaging in some bird watching on a nice summer evening.

Let’s get to know the various types of owls in Oklahoma.

1. Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl
by USFWS Mountain Prairie is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Thanks to its depiction in films like the Harry Potter series and its distinctive hoot, the great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) is widely recognized.

These enormous owls have a maximum weight of five and a half pounds.

They can take down ferocious prey like ospreys and falcons because they have powerful claws and good flying abilities.

Once they have something in their claws, it takes 28 pounds of power to pry them apart.

These birds can be found throughout North America, from Mexico to northern Alaska.

It lives in deserts, mountains, woodlands, and prairies and is one of the most widespread types of owls in Oklahoma.

The great horned owl can be found anywhere, including in urban areas, rural areas, and wilderness.

2. Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

Most owls reside in trees or shrubs, although burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia) can run along the ground in prairies, deserts, and grasslands because they have long legs.

They engage in rodent hunting before settling in tunnels that other creatures, such as ground squirrels and prairie dogs, have abandoned.

These are types of owls in Oklahoma that will even hunt tiny rodents before occupying their burrows.

If that is not possible, they will reside inside tubes or pipelines. They have evolved a high tolerance for carbon dioxide, which accumulates in underground places due to their adaptation to life beneath.

Look for long-legged owls with brown mottling and brilliant yellow eyes to recognize them.

Their heads are flat. All year long, burrowing owls reside in western Oklahoma.

3. Short-Eared Owl

Short-eared Owl

You were correct to assume that these owls have little ear tufts.

Owls have ear tufts that help guide sound to their ears so they can hear prospective predators and engage in hunting.

The ear tufts of short-eared owls are tiny and resemble miniature horns.

These owls (Asio flammeus) can be identified by their characteristic brown and white mottling that is bordered by black bars.

The eyes are golden and have dark black outlines around the cream-colored face.

The fact that they are active during the day makes it even simpler to notice them than their striking appearance would otherwise suggest. 

They are types of owls in Oklahoma that even have a distinctive flight pattern similar to a moth, making identification even easier.

During the non-breeding season, short-eared owls reside throughout the whole state of Oklahoma.

4. Barred Owl

Barred Owl
by Andy Morffew is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The great horned owl and the barred owl (Strix varia) are about the same size, but the barred owl weighs significantly less.

They have distinct bars all over their body and are mottled brown and white.

The breasts’ bars are vertical and horizontal on the rest of their bodies. These birds are not loud ones. 

Though they often remain silent, occasionally, you can hear them calling out during the day.

Barred owls prefer dense forests, whether they are in a swamp or high on a mountain. They are not seen in urban areas or on plains. 

They are widespread throughout the eastern US and as far north as Canada.

The birds’ range has grown recently, and now the Pacific Northwest is home to their populations as well.

Throughout their entire lives, these types of owls in Oklahoma stay put.

5. Long-Eared Owl

Long-eared Owl
by CheepShot is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The name “long-eared owl” comes from these birds‘ extremely lengthy ear tufts.

With hints of buff or orange, the tufts are mostly black. Between their bright eyes are two white lines.

They (Asio otus) have brown bodies that are spotted and thin. These nocturnal raptors forage on grasslands or open spaces while nesting in trees.

They frequently make hoots, squeals, and easily recognizable barks. 

Moreover, they speak loudly. They can fly extraordinarily long distances, although they typically only migrate at night.

Researchers have identified birds that migrated from Canada to Mexico in a single year.

All year long, residents and visitors to Oklahoma should search for this owl across the bulk of the state and, when it’s not breeding season, in the eastern bottom corner of the state.

6. Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owl
by Me in ME is licensed under CC BY 2.0

As one might anticipate, the eastern screech owl (Megascops asio) is related to the western screech owl.

With a small overlap in the Rocky Mountains between their western relatives, this owl lives on the east side of those mountains.

Except for the far western part of the panhandle, you can find them all year round in Oklahoma.

The eastern screech owl, one of the numerous types of owls in Oklahoma, is a skilled concealer.

They seamlessly blend into the bark of the trees, where they like to perch and build their nest’s thanks to their gray or reddish-brown mottling. 

You might not even notice them until you glimpse their glowing, bright yellow eyes.

They feature a yellow beak, noticeable ear tufts, and a black V between their eyes. These owls hunt during the night.

7. Western Screech Owl

Western-Screech Owl
by Marie Hale is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The size of a robin would be comparable to a western screech owl (Otus kennicottii).

The screech they produce, however, is anything but little. They blend in so completely with their surroundings that they are difficult to notice in the wild.

Sit outside at night and keep an attentive ear out for a screaming owl if you want to find one.

These are also types of owls in Oklahoma with pale breasts and a gray, brown, or red base.

They have dark lines all over their body that resemble the bark of numerous trees.

They have distinctive V-shaped ear tufts and bright eyes.

They are nocturnal and live in holes in trees and cacti, but if you supply them with a nestbox in your backyard, they will also settle there.

8. Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Because it prefers to reside in abandoned barns and other structures in rural areas, the barn owl (Tyto alba) earned its name.

They also build their nests in tree cavities. They search for prey by soaring over open spaces and listening. They have great hearing, as you can imagine.

A barn owl, equally included in this list of types of owls in Oklahoma, can be identified by its distinctive face.

They have heart-shaped faces of pure white, with big, black eyes. Their back and wings are speckled, gray, golden, or cinnamon. 

They appear all-white from below when flying because their chest and the undersides of their wings are white.

In contrast to the great horned owl, they lack ear tufts. Typically, young barn owls travel far from their nests.

9. Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl - Types of Owls in Michigan
by Kristina_Servant is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The body of a northern saw-whet owl (Aegolius acadicus) is mottled brown and white and is little, approximately the size of a robin.

They have heart-shaped faces with large golden eyes and a tiny white V-mark between their eyes.

They are hard to spot, especially since they hunt at night, but you can tell they are around if you hear their harsh call. 

If you look closely, you might be able to spot them because they build their nests in tree cavities at roughly eye level during the day.

But don’t rouse the birds from their slumber! Don’t look for them in open spaces or urban areas because they only inhabit mature forests. 

These types of owls travel long distances in Oklahoma to breed. They consume small rodents like shrews and mice; birds like chickadees and juncos.


In addition to eating small mammals, owls can hunt and consume snakes, frogs, insects, and even other birds.

They regurgitate the bones and hair of their victim as a pellet after eating it whole, frequently after removing the head and occasionally the wings. 

These recognizable birds have long held a special place in our hearts, and this guide to the types of owls in Oklahoma above will help you learn everything there is to know about them.

These include descriptions of their sounds and hoots, where to look for them, and how to identify each.

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