7 Types of Owls in South Carolina

Types of Owls in South Carolina
Photo by Omar Ram

South Carolina is home to various bird species, including owls.

Many people who live in the area are familiar with the Barred Owl or the Great Horned Owl, but many types of owls exist in South Carolina.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the types of owls in South Carolina that can be seen in the state and provide tips on where to look for them.

Read on to find out more about these incredible birds!

1. Barred Owl

To start this list of the different types of owls in South Carolina is the Barred Owl, a large bird of prey found throughout the state.

These owls have a distinctive pattern of stripes across their chest and wings. They have a large head, round eyes, and a deep-set beak for tearing apart their prey. 

Barred Owls primarily hunt at night, but they can also be seen searching for small animals like mice and voles during the day.

They use their sharp talons to snatch up these small creatures from the ground or low-lying branches.

These owls also produce a loud, raspy call that can be heard echoing through the woods. 

Barred Owls are primarily found in wooded habitats like old-growth forests, swampy areas, and bottomlands.

They tend to be less common in agricultural lands or urban areas. Since these owls rely heavily on their camouflage, keeping their habitat clean and intact is important.

By doing so, we can ensure that these birds continue to thrive in South Carolina’s forests for years to come.

2. Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl is one of the most common types of owls in South Carolina. This majestic bird can be seen in open woodlands, edges, and agricultural fields.

It is easily identified by its large size and distinctive ear tufts, which it uses to help locate prey.

This owl species also have excellent hearing and vision, allowing them to hunt effectively at night. 

The Great Horned Owl’s diet consists mostly of small mammals such as rabbits, rats, and squirrels, but they will also take birds and insects.

The Great Horned Owl is a powerful predator that is capable of taking on larger prey such as skunks and cats.

Although these types of owls in South Carolina do not migrate, they may move around the state in search of more suitable habitats and food sources. 

Great Horned Owls are also very vocal, making loud hoots and shrieks at night. It is estimated that this species is responsible for over half of all raptor mortality in South Carolina.

With the right protection and conservation measures, the future of this species should remain safe in Palmetto State.

3. Eastern Screech Owl

Talking about the different types of owls in South Carolina, the Eastern Screech Owl is definitely one!

This small, stocky owl has bright yellow eyes and can be distinguished from other species by its unique ear tufts. It has a distinctive call, described as a whinny or trill, that is often heard at night. 

These birds are found in open woodlands, streams, and urban areas. They typically nest in cavities of dead trees or woodpecker holes, and they feed on insects, small rodents, reptiles, and amphibians.

The Eastern Screech Owl is a year-round resident of South Carolina and can be seen perched in trees during the day. 

During the winter months, they may be more active during the day as they seek out food sources.

It’s important to remember never to approach an owl or try to touch it. These beautiful birds should be respected and admired from a distance.

4. Barn Owl

The Barn Owl is also one of the most common types of owls in South Carolina. This owl species is easily recognizable due to its unique heart-shaped face and white feathers.

It can often be seen gliding through open fields or soaring above wooded areas. 

The Barn Owl prefers open grassland habitats but can also be found near wetlands and cultivated areas.

This owl can be heard making loud, screeching noises during the night, which signifies that it is hunting for food.

The Barn Owl feeds on small rodents and can catch prey in complete darkness. They are also known for their silent flight, which helps them to remain undetected while hunting. 

This owl species is widely distributed throughout the United States and is considered to be common in South Carolina.

If you ever come across one of these majestic birds, make sure to take a moment to observe and appreciate the beauty of nature.

5. Short-Eared Owl

The Short-eared Owl is included in this list of various types of owls in South Carolina. This species can be found throughout the state and is often seen hunting during the day.

The Short-eared Owl is a medium-sized owl with a wingspan of up to 43 inches. Its coloring varies, ranging from light brown to grayish-brown with black and white mottling. 

The eyes are yellow, and it has long ear tufts that usually remain hidden unless the bird is alarmed.

In South Carolina, the Short-eared Owl is most often seen during the winter months when it migrates south from its breeding grounds in the northern United States.

During this time, the birds may congregate in large numbers, especially along coastal areas where food is abundant. 

They often hunt for small mammals such as mice, voles, shrews, insects, and even small birds.

This species is an active hunter, typically perching atop tall grasses or trees and watching for prey before diving to capture it.

6. Burrowing Owl

The Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) is a small, long-legged owl that lives in open grasslands and prairies.

These unique birds prefer to nest in underground burrows and feed on insects, small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

They are one of the few types of owls in South Carolina that can be seen during the day.

They can also be identified by their large eyes, slender legs, and gray-brown coloration with white spots.

The Burrowing Owl is found throughout South Carolina but is considered a rare sighting due to its secretive nature.

They are listed as a species of special concern, as their populations have been declining due to habitat loss and fragmentation. 

Conservation efforts are being implemented to help protect and preserve this species. If you’re lucky enough to spot one, take a moment to appreciate this amazing bird!

7. Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Coming up next on this list of the types of owls in South Carolina is the Northern Saw-whet Owl, a small owl with a distinctive tuft on its head.

It is found in the eastern United States and parts of Canada and is also known to inhabit South Carolina.

This owl species has a grayish-brown coloring, with white spots and bars that can be seen on its back and wings. 

Moving on, it is most active at night, feeding on small rodents such as mice and voles. It is also known for its unique call, which is often likened to a saw being whetted against a stone.

This owl species is rarely seen due to its nocturnal habits and the thick forest cover it prefers. 

However, bird watchers and amateur naturalists may be able to spot them in their natural habitats.

This can include woodlands, marshy areas, and even open fields. With patience and luck, one may be lucky enough to see this beautiful creature in action.


If you live in South Carolina, you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of an owl in your backyard or on a nature walk.

Owls are a fascinating bird species, and the state of South Carolina is home to different types of owls.

Above, we explored the types of owls in South Carolina that you may be able to see if you live in the state.

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