6 Powerful Owls of Florida to hear and see

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Owls of Florida

The Owls of Florida are some of the most captivating and mysterious birds in the state. With their large, glowing eyes and silent flight, these nocturnal creatures have captured the imagination of birdwatchers and nature lovers for generations. 

For those who love exploring the outdoors in Florida, spotting an owl in the wild is an extraordinary experience. 

Common Owls of Florida

The most common Owls in Florida include the Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl, Eastern Screech-Owl, Burrowing Owl, Barn Owl, and Short-eared Owl.

This blog post will cover the six species of owls found throughout the state, from the small and elusive Eastern Screech-Owl to the impressive and majestic Great Horned Owl.

Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher or a newcomer to the hobby, this post will deepen your appreciation for the incredible owls that call Florida home.

We have organized our list from most likely seen to the least likely to be seen for your convenience.

Florida Owls

According to the latest data from ebird, there are six observed species of Owls in Florida. This data has been compiled from over 67,900 dedicated bird watchers throughout the state.

Here are some quick facts:

  • Barred Owls are the most common observed Owls in Florida
  • Short-eared Owls are the least widely observed species in Florida
  • Great Horned Owls are the largest in Florida
  • Eastern Screech-Owls are the smallest Owls in Florida
  • Barred Owls are the only owls in Florida that can be seen hunting day and night.

6 Types Of Owls In Florida

1. Barred Owl

The Barred Owl is a large wood owl native to North America. They are non-migratory and inhabit the wooded Eastern United States and Northwestern Canada areas. They can be seen throughout Florida all year round.

  • Length: 43-50cm (17-20 inches)
  • Weight: 470-1050g (16.5-37oz)
  • Wingspan: 99-110cm (39-43 inches)
  • Barred Owl Scientific Name: Strix varia

Appearance

Barred Owls are chunky looking, with large heads, no ear tufts, and round tails.

They are brownish-grey above with white spots and a buff color below, with dark vertical bars on their chest and belly, and their tails have brown and white barring.

Habitat

Barred Owls prefer to live in mature forests but can also be found in wooded swamps and along rivers. 

They can also be seen living in wooded residential areas and parks.

Diet

Barred Owls are nocturnal hunters feeding primarily on small mammals, such as mice, opossums, squirrels, and rabbits. They also eat birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians that live in swampy areas. 

They search for prey from an elevated perch and can sometimes be heard calling in the early morning or late evening.

Nesting

Barred Owls typically nest in large tree cavities but will also use abandoned nests of other large birds, such as Hawks.

They lay 2-3 eggs per clutch, which hatch after about a month. Females incubate the eggs, and males provide the food for her and their young.

Interesting facts

  • Barred Owls have a unique call that sounds like “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” This call is often heard in forests at night. 
  • These birds have excellent hearing, which allows them to locate prey in complete darkness. 
  • Barred Owls have adapted well to suburban and urban areas and can often be found in parks and backyards. 
  • They are known to rival another owl species, the Spotted Owl, for nesting sites and territory. 
  • Barred Owls are sometimes called “hoot owls” because of their distinctive call.

2. Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl is a large and powerful eagle owl found throughout North and South America and can be seen in Florida all year round.

They are known for their distinctive ear tufts and intense yellow eyes.

  • Length: 46-63cm (18-25 inches)
  • Weight: 910-2500g (32-88oz)
  • Wingspan: 101-145cm (40-57 inches)
  • Great Horned Owl Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus

Appearance

Great Horned Owls are large-bodied owls with broad, round wings and distinctive ear tufts.

Their plumage can vary depending on geographic location, but they are primarily brown and gray above, with bars and speckling. They have reddish brown faces, white throats, and large yellow eyes.

Habitat

Great Horned Owls are adaptable, and you can spot them in various habitats, including forests, deserts, grasslands, and urban areas. 

They are found throughout North, Central, and South America and can thrive in cold or warm climates.

Diet

Great Horned Owls are night-time predators that eat a variety of mammals, including rodents, opossums, and rabbits. 

They will also eat giant insects, reptiles such as snakes and lizards, and other large birds such as ducks, geese, and sometimes unsuspecting raptors such as hawks, owls, or falcons.

They hunt from an elevated perch and swoop down onto prey. Their powerful talons and strong beak allow them to catch and kill their prey quickly.

Nesting

Great Horned Owls rarely build their own nest but instead, use abandoned nests of other large birds. 

They typically lay 2-3 eggs per clutch, which hatch after about a month. Females primarily incubate the eggs, and both parents take turns feeding their young.

Interesting facts

  • Great Horned Owls are known for their ability to take down prey larger than themselves.
  • These birds have excellent hearing and can locate prey in complete darkness.
  • Great Horned Owls are also called the Tiger Owl.
  • They will store food away in winter and return later to feed. Often incubating their frozen meal to thaw it out.
  • Great Horned Owls have few natural predators and can live up to 30 years in the wild.

3. Eastern Screech-Owl

The Eastern Screech-Owl is a small nocturnal owl that is found in the eastern half of North America and a year-round residents of Florida.

They are known for their distinctive ear tufts and ability to blend in with their surroundings.

  • Length: 16-25cm (6.3-9.5 inches)
  • Weight: 121-244g (4.3-8.6oz)
  • Wingspan: 48-61cm (19-24 inches)
  • Eastern Screech-Owl Scientific Name: Megascops asio

Appearance

Eastern Screech-Owls are small, stocky owls with large heads, rounded wings, and short square tails.

They have distinctive ear tufts on the top of their heads, bright yellow eyes, and a yellowy-green bill.

They have two color morphs, either gray or reddish-brown above, with intricate patterns that allow them to seem camouflaged against tree bark. 

Habitat

Eastern Screech-Owls prefer to live in wooded areas, including forests, parks, and suburban areas with mature trees throughout eastern North America, from southern Canada to Florida and Texas.

Diet

Eastern Screech-Owls eat a variety of prey, but they primarily eat small rodents and large insects such as moths, crickets, and beetles. 

They also eat birds and small reptiles like snakes, lizards, and frogs. They forage at night and prefer to scan for prey from a perch and swoop down to catch prey.

Nesting

Eastern Screech-Owls nest in tree cavities, abandoned woodpecker holes, and natural hollows in trees. 

They typically lay 4-6 eggs per clutch, which hatch after about a month. The female primarily incubates the eggs, and the male provides food for her and their chicks.

Interesting facts

  • They are also known for their distinctive call, which sounds like whinnying. 
  • These birds have excellent hearing and can locate prey in complete darkness. 
  • Eastern Screech-Owls are known to regurgitate their prey’s bones, feathers, or fur.
  • They come in two color morphs, with gray being the most common.

4. Burrowing Owl

The Burrowing Owl is a small, ground-dwelling owl in North and South America and is a year-round resident of Florida. They are known for their long legs and comical appearance.

  • Length: 19-25cm (7.5-9.5 inches)
  • Weight: 130 -160g (4.5-6oz)
  • Wingspan: 50-55cm (19.5-21.5 inches)
  • Burrowing Owl Scientific Name: Athene cunicularia

Appearance

Burrowing Owls are small ground owls with long legs, short tails, and rounded heads. 

They are brown above with buffy white spots and lighter below with brown barring on their belly. 

They also have white throats, white eyebrows, and yellow eyes.

Habitat

You can find Burrowing Owls in open, grassy areas with low vegetation, such as prairies, deserts, and agricultural fields throughout North and South America, from Canada to Argentina.

Diet

Burrowing Owls hunt during the day and at night and eat a variety of prey, including large insects such as grasshoppers, beetles, moths, and scorpions, and small mammals such as voles, squirrels, and mice.

They are also known to eat small birds and reptiles and hunt by swooping down from an elevated perch, running prey down on the ground, or hovering above fields before grabbing prey with their talons.

Nesting

Burrowing Owls nest in underground burrows, which they dig themselves or use abandoned holes from other animals. 

Females lay 4-10 eggs per clutch, which she then incubates for a month while the males provides the food.

Interesting facts

  • Burrowing Owls are known for their habit of living in underground burrows.
  • Burrowing Owls are active during the day and at night, making them one of the few owl species active during the day. 
  • They are social birds and often live in colonies, with multiple pairs of owls sharing the same burrow complex. 
  • Due to habitat loss and other factors, Burrowing Owls are a threatened species in many areas.

5. Barn Owl

The Barn Owl is a beautiful and distinctive species of owl, known worldwide for its heart-shaped face and ghostly white appearance.

They are common through the United States and can be seen in Florida all year round.

  • Length: 32-40cm (12.5-15.8 inches)
  • Weight: 400-700g (14-24.7oz)
  • Wingspan: 100-125cm (39.5-49.2 inches)
  • Barn Owl Scientific Name: Tyto alba

Appearance

Barn Owls are medium-sized owls with a distinctive heart-shaped facial disc outlined in white and bordered by a brownish-orange rim.

They have long legs, long, rounded wings, and short tails.

They are a mottled rusty brown and gray above with fine black dots and streaks. Below they vary in color from white to light cinnamon.

Males are smaller than females, and the darkest colored Barn Owls are always female.

Habitat

You can find Barn Owls in low-elevation open habitats such as grasslands, agricultural areas, wetlands, and forests worldwide.

Diet

Barn Owls feed primarily on rodents like mice, voles, and shrews but will also eat other small animals such as rabbits, birds, and insects.

They hunt mainly at night by flying low over open areas using their exceptional hearing and vision to locate prey. 

Nesting

Barn Owls do not build their nests, instead rely on natural or artificial cavities for their nests. These include hollow trees, barns, caves, church steeples, and nest boxes.

They lay 3-8 eggs per clutch, which hatch after about a month. The female does most of the incubation, while the male brings food to the nest.

Interesting facts

  • Barn Owls are one of the world’s most widespread species of owls. They are sometimes called the “ghost owl” because of their silent flight and pale appearance. 
  • Barn Owls’ specialized hearing system allows them to locate prey in complete darkness.
  • Barn Owls are considered to be a symbol of wisdom in many cultures around the world.

6. Short-eared Owl

The Short-eared Owl is a medium-sized owl common in many parts of the world. They are migratory owls and are residents of Florida during the colder non-breeding months.

They are known for their distinctive facial disk and the tufts of feathers that resemble ears.

  • Length: 34-43cm (13.4-17 inches)
  • Weight: 206-475g (7.3-16.8oz)
  • Wingspan: 85-103cm (33.5-40.5 inches)
  • Short-eared Owl Scientific Name: Asio flammeus

Appearance

Short-eared Owls have large rounded heads, small ear tufts, short tails, broad wings, and yellow eyes.

They have brownish feathers with white and dark streaks and a distinctive facial disk with black markings around their yellow eyes that resemble mascara. 

Their chest and belly are pale with brown streaks, and females are larger and appear darker than the males.

Their “ear tufts” stick up from the top of their head, giving them a slightly comical appearance.

Habitat

You can spot Short-eared Owls in open habitats such as grasslands, marshes, prairies, farmlands, and tundra.

They are migratory owls whose range stretches across North America and parts of South America.

Diet

Short-eared Owls feed primarily on rodents such as voles, mice and lemmings. They will also eat small mammals such as rabbits, gophers, shrews, and birds along the coast.

Short-eared Owls hunt by flying low over fields and grasslands, using their exceptional hearing to locate prey.

Nesting

Short-eared Owls females build their nest on the dry ground among tall grass or shrubs using feathers and grass.

They typically lay 3-11 eggs per clutch, which hatch after about a month. Females primarily incubate the eggs, and males provide food for the females and the young.

Interesting facts

  • They are known for their distinctive flight pattern and buoyant, moth-like style. 
  • They are considered a species of concern in many parts of the world due to habitat loss and degradation.
  • They are one of the few owl species that are active during the day and night.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What kind of owls live in Florida?

Six kinds of owl species live in Florida during the year. These include the Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl, Eastern Screech-Owl, Burrowing Owl, Barn Owl, and Short-eared Owl.

What small owls live in Florida?

The two small owls that live in Florida are the Eastern Screech-Owl and the Burrowing Owl, and Both are about the size of an American Robin.

Do burrowing owls live in Florida?

Yes, the Burrowing Owl is a resident of Florida and can be found in flat grassy areas, particularly near coastal regions. They are considered species of particular concern due to habitat loss. They nest in burrows they dig themselves or by other animals such as prairie dogs and armadillos.

Are there screech owls in Florida?

Yes, the Eastern Screech-Owl is a common resident of Florida. They are small owls and can be found in most wooded areas, particularly near water sources.

How big are Florida owls?

The size of owls in Florida varies by species. The largest owl is the Great Horned Owl, with a wingspan of up to five feet, while the smallest is the Eastern Screech-Owl, with an average wingspan of just under two feet.

Keep an Eye Out For The Owls Of Florida

Florida is home to many species of owls, which include the Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl, Eastern Screech-Owl, Burrowing Owl, Barn Owl, and Short-eared Owl. Each has unique features and characteristics that make them an exciting part of Florida’s wildlife.

Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or just someone who enjoys learning about nature, taking some time to learn about the six kinds of owls in Florida will provide you with the info you need to identify and appreciate them.

We hope this article has provided all the information you need. If you have questions about identifying more species of birds in Florida or finding out which ones live near you, let us know!

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I am an avid birdwatcher with a passion for learning all I can about these fantastic creatures. I love finding new species of birds in my backyard, neighborhood, or when I travel. I enjoy sharing everything I learn about how these creatures live their lives; feedback and experience is much appreciated!

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