Indiana is in the Great Lakes region of the U.S. and has some pretty diverse wildlife, including owls and other birds of prey. This article will cover the types of owls in Indiana as well as where and how you might be able to spot one in the state.
The 8 species of owls in Indiana are the Barn Owl, Barred Owl, Eastern Screech-owl, Great Horned Owl, Long-eared Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Short-eared Owl, and the Snowy Owl.
The 8 species of owls in Indiana
1. Barred Owl
Length: 16.9-19.7 in
Wingspan: 39.0-43.3 in
Weight: 16.6-37.0 oz
The Barred Owl is common throughout the entire state of Indiana. They are known to be very vocal and have a very recognizable call that sounds like they are saying; “Who cooks for you, Who cooks for you all? ” As with most owls, they are not always easy to spot. You may get lucky and spot one roosting during the day time if you take a walk through a mature forest. Barred Owls don’t migrate and are generally sedentary by nature.
Their number 1 predator is the Great Horned Owl. If a Great Horned Owl moves into a Barred Owl’s territory, it will quickly vacate the area and move on, although likely not very far. Out of 155 Barred Owls studied, none of them ventured further than 6 miles away from where they were originally banded.
Length: 7.1-8.3 in
Wingspan: 16.5-18.9 in
Weight: 2.3-5.3 oz
Northern Saw-whet Owls can be found all throughout Indiana, but the northern part of the state has them all year. Not only is the Saw-whet the smallest owl found in Indiana, but one of the smallest birds of prey in the entire country!
These tiny owls are about the size of an American Robin and got their name because of their call that sounds similar to that of a saw being sharpened on a whetting stone. They are generally very reclusive birds that prefer living in mature forests near a water source. They feed mainly on mice but during migration will supplement their diets with insects, songbirds, and even other small owls. Less is known about the migration and population of Northern Saw-whets because of their naturally elusive lifestyle.
3. 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 is a year-round resident to the entire state of Indiana. These small owls feed on various insects, rodents, and songbirds. Eastern Screech-owls will readily take up residence in nest boxes, if you’d like to attract a mating pair then consider putting one up in your yard. They will also use bird baths if you have one in your yard.
Whether they’re using a nesting box that you provide or a tree cavity that they’ve found, the female and young rely on the slightly smaller male to hunt and bring them food. They prefer living in wooded areas near a water source but are commonly found in suburban areas.
4. 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 among the largest of owls in Indiana and are also year-round residents to the entire state. They’re easily recognized by their large size, ear tufts, and yellow eyes. They are the only bird known to regularly kill and eat skunks and are also known to be mortal enemies with Red-tailed Hawks.
Great Horned Owls have a wide range of habitats and are common in forests, swamps, deserts, tundras, tropical rainforests open fields, as well as in urban and suburban areas like cities and parks.
5. Long-eared Owl
Length: 13.8-15.8 in
Weight: 7.8-15.3 oz
Long-eared Owls can be found in forests and woodlands all throughout Indiana, but non-breeding only according to allaboutbirds.org. They can easily be identified by their extra long ears, but are well camouflaged and may be hard to spot.
They are fierce and silent hunters that feed on the typical owl diet of small mammals and occasionally other birds. Like the Barn Owl they swallow their prey whole and regurgitate the unneeded parts in pellets. The call of the male Long-eared Owl can be heard from almost a mile away.
Length: 13.4-16.9 in
Wingspan: 33.5-40.5 in
Weight: 7.3-16.8 oz
Short-eared Owls are found throughout Indiana, in the northern part of the state all year long. Most of the state has a non-breeding range of Short-eared Owls, so look for them in open fields and grasslands in the winter time unless you live in northern Indiana.
Short-eared Owls can fly great distances when they migrate and have a very wide distribution range in North America. All the way from Mexico to the Northern tip of Alaska and everywhere in between. The only native owl in Hawaii is a subspecies of the Short-eared Owl.
7. Barn Owl
Length: 12.6-15.8 in
Wingspan: 39.4-49.2 in
Weight: 14.1-24.7 oz
Another owl that lives in Indiana all year long is the beautiful but elusive Barn Owl. The Barn Owl is easily identified by their beautiful plumage and heart-shaped face. Barn Owls actually do nest in many man-made structures including barns, which is where they got their name. They are also one of the most widely distributed birds in the entire world with 46 different sub-species worldwide. The North American Barn Owl is the largest of all of these.
Barn Owls, like other owls, are nocturnal and may be spotted at night hunting for small mammals. They are known for swallowing their prey completely whole, bones and all. Rather than digesting food normally through their digestive tract, they will regurgitate “pellets” of what their bodies did not need for nutrition.
Barn owls have exceptional low-light sight and hearing which makes them amazing night hunters and feared by anything known to be their prey. They are able to track and capture their prey by sound alone better than any other animal ever tested.
Length: 20.5-27.9 in
Wingspan: 49.6-57.1 in
Snowy Owls are slightly larger than Great Horned Owls making them the largest owls in Indiana. Their white plumage makes them incredibly beautiful and a treat to see should you ever be lucky enough. They are found mainly in the northernmost parts of Indiana, look for them near the shores of Lake Michigan. Snowy Owls migrate far north to the arctic tundra regions of Canada and Northern Greenland to breed.
Along with their white feathers, they have rounded heads with no ear tufts like other owls do making them impossible to mistake for any other type of owl if you see one. In my opinion Snowy Owls are among the most beautiful owls in Indiana, and the world.