9 Different Types of Owls in Virginia

types of owls in virginia
Photo by Szabo Apor

Virginia is home to many interesting creatures, including owls. Several different types of owls in Virginia can be found throughout the state.

In this blog post, we will explore the different types of owls you can find in Virginia and their habitats and behaviors. 

We will also discuss identifying each type of owl and the best places to observe them in the wild.

So, if you’re curious about the different types of owls in Virginia, you’ve come to the right blog!

If you’re looking to spot some of Virginia’s incredible birds, you won’t miss out on seeing the various types of owls that call this state home. 

From the majestic Great Horned Owl to the unique Saw-whet Owl, there are distinct species of owls found in Virginia.

We’ll look at these amazing species and discuss their behavior and habitat.

So grab your binoculars and come along with us as we explore the types of owls in Virginia!

1. Barred Owl

The Barred Owl (Strix varia) is a type of owl found in Virginia and throughout much of the eastern United States. They have distinctive barred plumage with light and dark streaks that form stripes along their feathers. The Barred Owl is typically a nocturnal hunter and feeds mainly on small mammals such as mice, voles, and chipmunks. 

It is the first on this list of the different types of owls in Virginia and is also known to eat frogs, snakes, fish, and insects. Barred Owls are adaptable and can often be seen near urban areas, in forests, and in other natural habitats. The Barred Owl is a medium-sized owl, measuring between 17 and 24 inches in length and weighing between 1 and 2 pounds. 

They typically have a brown head and back, white spots on the chest, and yellow eyes. They are solitary birds but may form pairs when breeding or nesting in trees or other natural cavities. Barred Owls often perch on high branches during the day and can usually be heard calling at night. They are an important part of Virginia’s ecosystem, helping control rodent populations.

2. Eastern Screech-Owl

The Eastern Screech-Owl is a small owl native to the state of Virginia. It is about 7–10 inches in size, with yellow eyes and a grey-brown or reddish-brown plumage. These owls are usually found in woodlands and other areas of dense vegetation and feed on a variety of small animals, such as mice and insects. 

They are types of owls in Virginia that are active at night and can often be heard calling from treetops during the early morning hours. Although they are mainly solitary birds, they can often be found in pairs or small groups during nesting season. The Eastern Screech-Owl is an important part of Virginia’s ecosystem, providing an important source of food for other species and helping to keep insect populations under control.

3. Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl is a common type of owl found in Virginia. It is a large, powerful bird with prominent ear tufts and yellow eyes. This owl typically inhabits woodlands, meadows, and open areas and is active at night. It is one of the most widespread owls and can be found in almost all parts of the United States. 

In Virginia, it is known to live in many of the forests in the western part of the state and along the Appalachian Mountains. It preys upon small mammals, birds, and insects, and its call consists of a low-pitched series of hoots. The Great Horned Owl has distinctive physical characteristics that make it easy to identify. 

Moreover, it has a brown-gray mottled body with white underparts and dark brown barring on its wings and tail. Its face is round with prominent ear tufts, and its bill is short and thick. The Great Horned Owl can reach up to two feet in length and can weigh up to four pounds. It also has excellent eyesight and hearing, allowing it to spot prey from far away distances. 

The Great Horned Owl is an important predator in Virginia’s ecosystems and plays an important role in maintaining the balance of its wildlife. Because it is a nocturnal bird, it is often difficult to observe in the wild, but its presence can be easily heard when it calls out at night. This is third on this list of the types of owls in Virginia!

4. Burrowing Owl

The Burrowing Owl is one of the most common types of owls in Virginia. These small, compact birds are reddish-brown with distinctive white facial disks and large eyes. They have long legs and talons to burrow into soft soil, often nesting in abandoned rodent burrows. 

Burrowing Owls are usually seen perched on fence posts during the day or hunting for insects, small mammals, and birds. The Burrowing Owl is highly adaptive and is found in various habitats, from agricultural fields to urban parks. The Burrowing Owl is listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Virginia due to its declining population size. 

This species is particularly vulnerable to human disturbance, and urbanization of open grasslands and shrublands can further threaten the Burrowing Owl’s nesting sites. To conserve this species in Virginia, it is important to protect suitable habitats and create opportunities for public education about the Burrowing Owl’s unique behaviors.

5. Short-Eared Owl

Speaking about the several types of owls in Virginia, the Short-eared Owl is another species of owl that can be found in the state. This small owl typically has a brownish-gray color with mottled white and yellow coloring. Its wingspan is usually between 28 and 32 inches, and its length ranges from 11 to 16 inches. 

The Short-eared Owl is primarily active during the day and will often hunt in open fields or grasslands, utilizing its low-flying tactics to catch its prey. In Virginia, the Short-eared Owl is mainly found in the Eastern Shore and Northern regions, though sightings have been recorded across most of the state. Short-eared Owls are considered a threatened species in Virginia and the rest of North America due to habitat destruction, climate change, and the use of pesticides. 

As such, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries lists this owl as a species of special concern. Conservation efforts are ongoing to help protect these birds and ensure they remain in Virginia’s skies for generations to come.

6. Barn Owl

The Barn Owl is one of the most commonly found types of owls in Virginia. This species is easily recognizable due to its distinctive facial disk and striking white-and-brown coloration. They can be found in open woodlands and in agricultural and urban areas. 

Barn Owls typically hunt at night, swooping down to grab small mammals such as mice, voles, and shrews. These owls are common nesting birds in Virginia and can be seen throughout the state. Barn Owls mate for life and typically nest in cavities of trees, old buildings, and barns. 

When nesting, they often use material from their prey to line their nests, creating a camouflaged home in which their young can grow. Barn Owls are an important part of Virginia’s ecology, helping to control rodent populations that can become out of control if left unchecked. By maintaining healthy rodent populations, Barn Owls help farmers and urbanites alike.

7. Snowy Owl

Of all the types of owls in Virginia, the Snowy Owl is a large, white owl found mainly in the northern parts of North America. It is also known as the Arctic Owl due to its range. In Virginia, Snowy Owls are rarely seen and are usually only spotted during winter when they migrate southward for food. 

They have distinct white plumage with black spots, which helps them blend into the snow-covered landscape of their habitats. The Snowy Owl has been listed as an endangered species in Virginia since 2017 due to its declining population. These majestic birds can be spotted in northern parts of the state, such as the mountains, where they hunt for small mammals, birds, and reptiles.

8. Long-Eared Owl

The Long-eared Owl is one of the most mysterious types of owls in Virginia. It is known for its cryptic behavior and elusiveness. Although these owls are quite common in the state, they are not easily seen due to their secretive nature. They can often roost in dense trees during the day and hunt at night. 

This owl has long ear tufts, a prominent facial disc, a grayish-brown body with heavily streaked white and brown markings, and yellow eyes. Its call is a series of shrill hoots. The Long-eared Owl is found in many habitats, including woodlands, open fields, wetlands, and agricultural areas. This species is listed as a Species of Special Concern in Virginia due to its declining population in recent years.

9. Northern Saw-Whet Owl

The Northern Saw-whet Owl is a small and adorable owl species that are native to Virginia. It is characterized by its small size, light brown feathers, and white streaks. This owl can be found throughout the state, mostly in wooded areas near rivers or streams. 

Furthermore, they feed mostly on small rodents, such as mice and voles, but they will also eat insects, birds, and other small creatures. These types of owls in Virginia are nocturnal, so they hunt at night, and during the day, they usually roost in dense foliage. In winter, they may migrate further south to warmer climates.


Virginia is home to a wide variety of bird species, including several species of owls.

If you’re a bird enthusiast or curious to learn more about these fascinating birds, this blog post is for you!

We explored the different types of owls in Virginia, from the iconic Barn Owl to the secretive Eastern Screech-Owl. 

We also discussed their habitats, behaviors, and other fun facts about these avian inhabitants of the Old Dominion.

So read the article above to find out more about the different types of owls in Virginia!

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