8 Different Types of Owls in Tennessee

Different Types of Owls in Tennessee
Photo by Richard Lee

Tennessee is a state that is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including several species of owls.

These magnificent birds are found throughout the state and make their homes in diverse habitats.

There are different types of owls in Tennessee, ranging from the tiny Elf Owl to the large Great Horned Owl.

In this blog post, we will explore the various types of owls in Tennessee and where to find them.

So if you’re looking for an opportunity to get up close and personal with some of Tennessee’s feathered friends, read on!

1. Barred Owl

The Barred Owl, scientifically known as Strix varia, is an owl native to Tennessee. It has distinctive black and white stripes on its chest, a round facial disc, and dark eyes. These owls are found throughout the state in mature forests and along riparian corridors. They prefer to roost in trees with dense foliage for cover, although they can also be found in open fields or clearings. 

Barred Owls typically hunt small mammals and birds but will also eat amphibians, reptiles, and insects. During the day, they will often rest on branches or in tree cavities. At night they become more active and begin hunting by using their excellent hearing to locate prey.

Consider providing nest boxes or perches to attract Barred Owls to your backyard. You may hear their deep hooting at night if you’re lucky enough. To identify these starters of our list of the types of owls in Tennessee in the wild, listen for their loud “who-cooks-for-you” call.

2. Barn Owl

The barn owl is one of the most common types of owls in Tennessee. These birds are easily identifiable by their unique heart-shaped face and long legs. While they are mainly active at night, they can often be seen hunting in open fields during the day. 

They primarily feed on rodents but can also consume large insects, snakes, and other small creatures. The barn owl is found throughout most of Tennessee but is most common in areas with abundant open grasslands and pastures. They can also be found in barns and other buildings, which are usually used as nesting sites. 

During the breeding season, a pair of these types of owls in Tennessee will typically use one of these areas to raise their young. If you’re looking for the best places to spot these beautiful birds, keep an eye out for grassy fields, pastures, and barns. If you’re lucky enough to see one, you’ll be sure to remember its unique appearance for years to come.

3. Snowy Owl

The Snowy Owl is a beautiful and majestic species of owl native to Tennessee. These majestic creatures are found mainly in the northern parts of the state but can occasionally be seen as far south as Chattanooga. This large owl has distinct white feathers with black spots and a round head. 

They are a fairly rare sight in Tennessee but are usually seen during migration in the winter months. The Snowy Owl prefers to hunt in open fields, making them well adapted to Tennessee’s vast farmlands. Their diet consists mainly of small mammals such as voles, mice, and rabbits. They are types of owls in Tennessee that will also occasionally hunt waterfowl and other birds. 

If you’re lucky enough to spot a Snowy Owl while in the countryside, keeping your distance is important. These animals can be easily scared away by loud noises or too much activity and should not be disturbed. It’s also important to note that Snowy Owls are a protected species, and hunting or capturing them is illegal.

4. Eastern Screech-Owl

The Eastern Screech-Owl is a small owl native to Tennessee and other parts of the eastern United States. It has grey or brown plumage, yellow eyes, and white streaks down its face. The Eastern Screech-Owl can be found in various habitats throughout the state, such as deciduous forests, urban parks, and gardens. 

These particular types of owls in Tennessee are most active at night but can also be seen during the day. They feed mainly on small mammals and insects and nest in cavities in trees or abandoned buildings. The Eastern Screech-Owl is a great species to watch out for when exploring the outdoors in Tennessee.

5. Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) is one of the most easily recognizable types of owls in Tennessee. This large, powerful bird has a distinctive look, with its yellow eyes, dark brown feathers, and tufts of feathers on its head that resemble horns. The Great Horned Owl is a common sight throughout Tennessee and can be found in woods, farmlands, and even suburban areas. 

They hunt mainly at night, and their diet consists of small mammals, birds, frogs, and reptiles. These owls are most active during the winter months, when they can often be heard calling out in the evening. To find a Great Horned Owl in Tennessee, you should look in wooded areas or near open fields, as they like to roost in tall trees.

6. Long-Eared Owl

The long-eared owl is a medium-sized owl that can be found in Tennessee. It has a long, ear-like tuft and a reddish-brown facial disk. Its eyes are yellow, and its wings and tail are barred. Its diet includes small mammals, such as mice and voles, and small birds.

This species is often found in wooded areas, especially open fields, meadows, or nearby marshy areas. It is active during the night and roosts during the day. They are types of owls in Tennessee that can be seen perched on a tree branch, fence post, or utility pole. 

When it comes to spotting the long-eared owl in Tennessee, there are a few locations that should be checked out. These include Reelfoot Lake Wildlife Refuge, Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Fort Campbell Military Reservation, and Natchez Trace Parkway. Keep an eye out for this bird during the spring and summer when they are most active.

7. Northern Saw-Whet Owl

The Northern Saw-whet Owl is included in this list of the several types of owls in Tennessee. This species is characterized by its bright yellow eyes and long, slender body. It prefers to inhabit dense forests, particularly those with thick undergrowth.

In Tennessee, the Northern Saw-whet Owl can be found throughout the state, although it is most commonly spotted in the Cumberland Plateau region. The best times to spot this species are during the spring and fall migration periods when they come down from their northern breeding grounds. During these times, they can be heard calling out in the night, making a soft “toot” sound.

If you are interested in seeing a Northern Saw-whet Owl, look for them near areas of dense vegetation such as wooded swamps and wetlands. They can sometimes be seen perched on fence posts and stumps near farmlands. If you listen carefully in the night, you may hear their soft calls or the sound of their wings as they fly past.

8. Short-Eared Owl

The Short-eared Owl is a medium-sized owl native to Tennessee and found in open habitats with low vegetation like fields, meadows, and marshes. It’s the only owl species in Tennessee with yellow eyes and a brownish-orange body. Its wingspan can reach up to 33 inches in length, and its face is pale with a dark bill.

The Short-eared Owl typically resides in flat areas of the state, often near water bodies, and is most active during the winter season. During the summer, they tend to migrate northward. This species can be seen in flight during the night or early morning, actively hunting for its prey, including small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.

To find the Short-eared Owl, one of the amazing types of owls in Tennessee, check around the state’s wetlands, marshes, and grassy areas. You’ll likely see them perched on low branches at dusk or dawn, hunting for prey. If you happen to spot one, make sure to observe from a distance to ensure you don’t disturb their natural behavior.


Tennessee is home to many different species of owls, making it a great place for bird watchers to explore. Different types of owls in Tennessee can be spotted in the state, from the Great Horned Owl to the Northern Saw-whet Owl. 

Above, we discussed each of these species and provided tips on where to find them in Tennessee. So whether you’re a seasoned owl enthusiast or just getting started with bird watching, read the guide to learn about the different types of owls in Tennessee.

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