Who doesn’t love owls? They are really the most curious and fascinating of all birds to me. I find everything about them so interesting. In this article we’ll take a look at the owls in Florida including some pictures and facts to help you identify them if you see one.
When it comes to owls in Florida, you will find 7 species in the state. The Barn Owl, Eastern Screech-owl, Great Horned Owl, Burrowing Owl, Short-eared Owl, the Northern Saw-whet Owl, and the Barred Owl. Here’s a little info and a picture of each one. Up first is the Barn Owl.
7 Species of Owls in Florida
The 7 species of owls in Florida are the Barn Owl, Eastern Screech-owl, Great Horned Owl, Burrowing Owl, Barred Owl, Short-eared Owl, and the Northern Saw-whet Owl.
1. Barn Owl
Length: 12.6-15.8 in
Wingspan: 39.4-49.2 in
Weight: 14.1-24.7 oz
The Barn Owl can be found throughout Florida and most of North America all year round pretty much everywhere including woodland areas, farms, suburbs, and clearings. These nocturnal birds of prey can easily be identified by their ghostly white faces and heart-shaped faces. Even though they are widely distributed, their populations are declining in some areas due to loss of habitat. Learn more about the Barn Owl here.
2. Eastern Screech-owl
Length: 6.3-9.8 in
Wingspan: 18.9-24.0 in
Weight: 4.3-8.6 oz
The Eastern Screech-owl can be found all throughout Florida and the entire eastern half of the United States. As you may have guessed, they are named for their screeching call. These loud, sharp barking calls indicate alarm or agitation and are typically made by adults defending nests or fledglings.
Eastern Screech-owls will nest in nesting boxes if you put them out. Mating pairs are monogamous and will generally mate for life. You can learn more about the Eastern Screech-owl here.
3. Great Horned Owl
Length: 18.1-24.8 in
Wingspan: 39.8-57.1 in
Weight: 32.1-88.2 oz
The Great Horned Owl is what many people first think of when they think of an owl. He is majestic, large, and fierce. The Great Horned Owl has few predators in the wild and hunts not only small mammals and rodents, but also other birds and even other owls.
Great Horned Owls can be found all throughout North America from Alaska to the southern tip of Florida year-round. Learn more about the Great Horned Owl here.
4. Burrowing Owl
Length: 7.5-9.8 in
Wingspan: 21.6 in
Weight: 5.3 oz
The Burrowing Owl can be found year-round throughout most of Florida, and have even been spotted as far south as Key West. Less frequently seen in the far northern part of the state and panhandle.
Burrowing Owls are the only birds of prey that nest exclusively in the ground, in burrows usually made by other ground dwelling animals like prairie dogs or ground squirrels. Here are some more interesting facts about Burrowing Owls.
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5. Barred Owl
Length: 16.9-19.7 in
Wingspan: 39.0-43.3 in
Weight: 16.6-37.0 oz
The Barred Owl’s distribution includes all of the state of Florida and most of the eastern half of the United States as well parts of Canada in North America. Being that they are nocturnal, they are more active at night and prefer living in large, mature forests. They are also known for using nest boxes that are offered.
The Barred Owl is widely known for its very unique call that sounds like he is saying “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?”. If you hear it you’ll instantly know it’s a Barred Owl. Learn more about the Barred Owl here.
6. Short-eared Owl
Length: 13.4-16.9 in (34-43 cm)
Weight: 7.3-16.8 oz (206-475 g)
Wingspan: 33.5-40.5 in (85-103 cm)
The Short-eared Owl prefers open ground for hunting, and as well as fields and marshes, can be found at airports. They have a winter range throughout the state of Florida, but are elusive and rarely seen.
These owls are often seen in daylight, hunting mostly in the early morning and at dusk. They sometimes sit on the ground while waiting for prey and then fly very low before swooping down to catch whatever morsel comes their way.
7. Northern Saw-whet Owl
Length: 7.1-8.3 inches
Weight: 2.3-5.3 oz
Wingspan: 16.5-18.9 inches
The best bet for catching a glimpse of a Northern Saw-whet Owl is to learn it’s call and listen for it at night. Luckily, they have a distinct call that sounds like a blade being sharpened with a whetstone, earning the name “saw-whet” owl. During late winter through early summer they tend to call more frequently, so be sure to listen to a high-pitched, “too-too-too” call around then.
The female Northern Saw-whet Owl keeps a very tidy nest. She leaves her chicks after they are about 18 days old and the male continues to feed them until they leave the nest about 10 days later. In typical youthful fashion, the young owls do not clean up after themselves, and by the time they leave home the nest is coated in rotting prey, pellets, and fecal matter.
They’re found northern Florida, but only rarely and in the winter. Northern Saw-whet Owls are the smallest owls in Florida and the U.S. Coupled with their small stature, they can be identified by their big round heads with big eyes. In addition to their tiny size, there are a few other reasons why these owls are notoriously difficult to locate.
Their mottled brown plumage blends in easily to the trees around them, especially when they’re perched motionlessly on a branch. These owls are also naturally secretive, preferring to lay low and avoid being noticed. Like most other owls, they’re also only active at night.