13 Different Types of Owls in Utah

Different Types of Owls in Utah
Photo by Philip Brown

Many people regard owls with awe and mystery. It may also make you question how many different types of owls in Utah can be found where you live.

The fact that most of us never see them because of their concealment and nocturnal lifestyle adds to their allure.

Our blog post article will look at the different types of owls in Utah. That is a lengthy list! Let’s take a look at each one of them. 

1. Barn Owl

Barn owls (Tyto Alba) are first on our list of types of owls in Utah. It can be seen all year in most of the United States, including Utah. They favor open areas, including meadows, farms, ranches, agricultural land, and woodland strips.

Barn owls prefer to build their nests in man-made structures with many eaves and beams, such as barns, attics, and church steeples. This is most likely how they received their name. They often build their nests in tree cavities, caves, and cliff faces. Barn Owls are nocturnal and are rarely to be seen during the day.

They soar low over fields at nightfall and throughout the night, utilizing their incredible hearing to locate mice and other rodents. If you catch a glimpse of them in the wild, their enormous, ghostly white face and belly can be extremely frightening.

2. Boreal Owl

The boreal forest of spruce, birch, and fir trees that spans northern North America and Eurasia is home to boreal owls( Aegolius funereus), as the name implies. They are exclusively found in a few states in the United States. 

While Utah is technically outside of its range, there have been reports of sightings east of Salt Lake City. So they’re unusual for the state, but you might get lucky.

Boreal owls, as types of owls in Utah, are enigmatic birds that can be difficult to identify, especially during the day. They roost in a different tree every day, so don’t expect to see them in the same place you saw them the day before.

They’re little owls approximately the size of a robin, with huge, square heads, stocky bodies, and short tails. They perch at night and wait for prey like small mammals and birds before swooping down and seizing their prey with their talons.

Boreal owls types of owls in Utah are normally quiet and do not make many calls. However, this behavior shifts from late winter to early spring when males call for mates more frequently. Listen for these rapid hoots at night to increase your chances of locating them. 

3. Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl (Burrowing Owl)  is also on our list of types of owls in Utah. These owls are small and have lengthy legs; they dwell underground in burrows. They sometimes build their own tunnels and take up burrows abandoned by other creatures, such as prairie dogs or ground squirrels.

They have even been observed burrowing in man-made constructions such as pipes, buckets, and culverts. They can be found in open settings such as deserts and grasslands. 

They can be difficult to notice since they are little compared to the vast open area in which they live, and when in their burrows, they barely peek over the horizon. Burrowing types of owls in Utah are most active at sunrise and sunset.

4. Flammulated Owl

During the spring and summer, the flammulated owl(Psiloscops flammeolus) can be found in Utah, primarily in the higher elevation zones that run across the state’s midsection. These types of owls in Utah are quite small and spend much of their time at the tops of big evergreen trees, making them difficult to find. 

The easiest approach to finding them is usually by sound. They make a low-pitched, repeated hoot. The main regions where sightings have been reported are Zion National Forest, the Tushar Mountains, and the Wasatch Range near Salt Lake City.

Their primary diet consists of flying invertebrates such as crickets, moths, and beetles, which they hunt at night. They have reddish gray feathers and are effectively camouflaged, looking similar to screech owls but with shorter ear tufts.

5. Great Gray Owl

Great gray owls (Strix nebulosa) can be seen all year in Alaska and Canada but not in many places in the continental United States. A small population may spend the winter in places north of Salt Lake City, but sightings are uncommon in the state.

These huge types of owls in Utah have round heads, bright eyes, and a “bow tie” at the neck, which is a strip of white feathers with a black strip in the center. Great gray owls reside in the north’s dense evergreen forests, where they hunt voles, gophers, chipmunks, and other small mammals in meadows and clearings. They prefer pine and fir forests near highland meadows in the United States.

Great gray types of owls in Utah do not construct their own nests. They will repurpose an old raven or hawk nest, the top of a fallen tree, or even human-made platforms or mistletoe clumps. Their hearing is so acute that they can hunt solely by sound, and their powerful talons can pierce thick-packed snow to capture creatures beneath.

6. Great Horned Owl

Because of their big size, bright eyes, and “horns,” which are tufts of feathers that jut up on either side of their head, great horned owls( Bubo virginianus) are one of the most common and recognized types of owls in Utah in North America. They are available all year in Utah.

These types of owls in Utah live in various environments, including forests, swamps, deserts, and urban areas such as city parks. Their plumage varies in color, but the majority are either cold or warm brown.

Great horned owls eat a wide variety of prey, including mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, and fish. The sound most people associate with owls is their hoot, which is frequently exploited in television and film.

7. Long-Eared Owl

Long-eared owls(Asio otus) can be found all year in Utah. Pine stands or woodlands near grassland and meadows are their favored environment.

Their brilliant yellow eyes, white V-shaped facial pattern, a circular facial disc, and long feather tufts that point straight up can always give them an astonished expression. The rounded face with a white V distinguishes them from great horned owls.

Their outstanding camouflage and covert roosting in deep trees make them difficult to locate. On spring and summer nights, listen for their lengthy, low hoots.

8. Mexican Spotted Owl

The Mexican spotted owl(Strix occidentalis lucida) is one of three spotted owl subspecies and one of the largest owl species in North America. Both the US and Mexican governments have declared it a menace. 

They can be seen in southern and southeastern Utah all year, but they are regarded as relatively rare. The Mexican spotted owl has a dark brownish-gray body and a pale face. They have a flattened head and no ear tufts.

Despite their size, these types of owls in Utah are uncommon and difficult to locate. The Mexican subspecies can be found in pine-oak or mixed evergreen forests with Douglas fir and pine. 

They build their nests and roosts in tight canyons with steep sides. The food of a spotted owl primarily consists of small to medium-sized rodents, although it may also include rabbits, gophers, bats, smaller owls, birds, and insects. They hunt largely at night but may begin as early as dusk.

9. Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy-Owls (Glaucidium gnoma) are found throughout the mountainous western United States, including Utah. They’re active during the day, which makes them easier to spot than most other nocturnal owls, but they’re also little and tend to perch while waiting for prey, so keep your eyes alert.

To make it easier to find them, become acquainted with their high-pitched toots and calls. Pay attention to groups of songbirds that are causing a commotion. When they come across a Northern Pygmy-Owl, they often mob it and try to scare it away. They don’t want this owl around because it frequently eats little songbirds.

Northern pygmy owls have round heads and no ear tufts. Their abdomen is striped vertically in brown, while their head and back are brown with white speckles.

10. Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Northern saw-whet owls(Aegolius acadicus) have round heads and bright eyes. Aside from their small stature, there are a few more reasons why these owls are famously difficult to find.

Their mottled brown plumage mixes in well with the surrounding woods, especially when perched motionlessly on a branch. These types of owls in Utah are also inherently secretive and only active at night, so you won’t see them during the day.

The easiest way to locate a northern saw-whet owl is to learn its call and listen for it at night, especially between January and May when they call the most. The term “saw-whet” owl comes from its unusual call, which sounds like a blade being polished with a whetstone.

11. Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared owl (Asio flammeus) is next on our list of types of owls in Utah. They actually have “ear tuft” feathers, as the name implies, but they are so short that they are practically never visible. 

They have golden eyes, like many types of owls in Utah, but the black around them really highlights the color. Their populations in a given area can vary from year to year due to the population of their prey, which includes moles, rats, rabbits, and weasels. 

Their populations are believed to be declining due to habitat loss and fragmentation caused by converting the broad open grasslands they require into farmland, grazing land, recreational areas, and housing development. They can travel large distances over the open oceans and can be found worldwide.

12. Snowy Owl

Snowy owls(Bubo scandiacus) spend the winter in most of Canada, but this owl has been migrating further south into the United States each year. Sightings have occurred in northern Utah, but they are extremely rare.

During the summer, these magnificent types of owls in Utah move far north to the arctic areas of Canada and Greenland to breed. They will hunt lemmings, their favorite summer food, all day.

Because of their dazzling white plumage, snowy types of owls in Utah are not as difficult to notice as other owls. They are diurnal, which means they are active during the day, unlike most other owls. They like wide-open locations such as fields, airports, and beaches for hunting. Look for them on snowy terrain.

13. Western Screech Owl

Lastly, Western Screech-Owls(Magascops kennicottii)  can be found all along the coast of western North America and in several western states. They can be found across Utah all year.

There are no obvious distinctions between the eastern and western versions. They do, however, have various hoots. The eastern screech owl has a falling whinny, while the western screech owl has a sequence of fast hoots.

They rarely overlap their range. They build their nests in tree cavities in both rural and urban locations. Their wonderfully camouflaged feathers make them difficult to spot when lurking inside tree crevices. 

They look like little robins with stocky bodies and short tails. When they roost in holes, their predominantly gray-brown plumage with streaky undersides blends in extraordinarily well with trees.

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