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7 Amazing Owls You’ll Find in Florida (Pictures)

 Last Reviewed by Jesse Foutch on 03-22-2024

Owls are fascinating birds with a presence in Florida that adds to the state’s rich biodiversity. This article highlights Florida’s owl species, offering insights to help identify them. From the Barn Owl’s silent flights to the Eastern Screech Owl’s distinctive calls, we provide facts and photos of these nocturnal predators.

Understanding their habits and habitats not only enriches our knowledge but also underscores their importance in the ecosystem. Here’s a look at the owls of Florida, aiming to enhance your chances of spotting these remarkable birds in their natural setting.

The 7 Species of Owls in Florida

Florida is home to the Barn Owl, Eastern Screech-owl, Great Horned Owl, Burrowing Owl, Short-eared Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, and the Barred Owl. Here’s a some info and pictures of each one, enjoy!

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 owl
Eastern Screech Owl | image by Susan Young via Flickr

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 owl forest
Great horned owl | credit: USFWS – Pacific Region

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.

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

Image: US Fish & Wildlife Service |

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.

northern saw-whet owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl | image by David A Mitchell via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

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.

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2 thoughts on “7 Amazing Owls You’ll Find in Florida (Pictures)”

  1. FYI, there is a huge population of burrowing owls at Eglin Air Force base near Mossy Head, Florida just off Interstate 10 in the panhandle of Florida. Your info says otherwise. Steve Irwin actually did a special catching snakes and highlighted the owls protected there. Season 3 ep 13 & 14

    • Thanks for the feedback Nathan. Compared to the rest of Florida, the population in the panhandle is much lower with only a few specific locations that they have been observed in recent years. I will update the article to make that a little more clear. It’s interesting, nothing has been logged into the eBird database for that location near Eglin AFB since 2014, I wonder if the owls are still there. Hope so!

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