Owls in Louisiana (8 Species With Pictures)

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The swamps and forests of Louisiana are a great habitat for a wide range of owl species, and some have even adapted to live in suburban or urban park and recreation areas.  These amazing birds are great assets to our communities, especially at keeping rodent populations down. Below is a list of 8 species of owls in Louisiana, in it we’ll look at pictures for each of those species as well as learn a few facts about them. 

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8 types of owls in Louisiana 

1. Great Horned Owl

Image: greatsanddunesnpp | flickr

Scientific name: Bubo virginianus
Length: 18.1-24.8 in (46-63 cm)
Weight: 32.1-88.2 oz (910-2500 g)
Wingspan: 39.8-57.1 in (101-145 cm)

The Great Horned Owl is the largest of Louisiana’s owl species.  While they can adapt to pretty much any environment (as evidenced by the fact that they are found throughout all of North America), the deciduous and evergreen forests as well as the swamps in the state are all great habitats for these birds.

Great Horned Owls begin nesting in late winter, much earlier than most other owls.  They have an extremely varied diet which can even include skunks and other birds of prey, and will occasionally hunt in broad daylight.


2. Barn Owl

image: Pixabay.com

Scientific name: Tyto alba
Length: 12.6-15.8 in (32-40 cm)
Weight: 14.1-24.7 oz (400-700 g)
Wingspan: 39.4-49.2 in (100-125 cm)

Living up to their name, Barn Owls do like to nest in old barns and other sheltered areas, but prefer open spaces like fields to hunt.  Louisiana is in their year-round habitat; often Barn Owls fly south for the winter.

Even though Barn Owls have amazing low-light vision, many scientific tests indicate that they can also hunt entirely by sound.  Female Barn Owls who have more spots on their bellies are thought to be more resistant to parasites and disease than those with fewer spots.  


3. Burrowing Owl

Scientific name: Athene cunicularia
Length: 7.5-9.8 in (19-25 cm)
Weight: 5.3 oz (150 g)
Wingspan: 21.6 in (55 cm)

Burrowing Owls use old burrows of prairie dogs or ground squirrels for their nests. They prefer open prairie land father west, but occasionally they will venture into southwestern Louisiana, especially in the winter.  Their habitat is dwindling in general and they are extremely rare in this state.

Insects make up a great part of the Burrowing Owls’ diet (as well as small mammals), and they can catch them in midair. These birds sometimes hunting during the day, especially during their breeding season.  

Did you know...
Many owls swallow their prey whole and then regurgitate the indigestible bits such as bone, feathers, or fur as pellets.  These pellets, dumped near nesting sites, can give scientists great information about what these birds eat.  Finding a cache of pellets on the ground can be a hint that there is a nest nearby.

4. Eastern Screech-owl

Image: MiniMe-70 | pixabay.com

Scientific name: Megascops asio
Length: 6.3-9.8 in (16-25 cm)
Weight: 4.3-8.6 oz (121-244 g)
Wingspan: 18.9-24.0 in (48-61 cm)

Only as big as a robin, the Eastern Screech-owl loves wooded areas and is a year-round resident of Louisiana. They have even adapted to suburban parks that have plenty of trees for nesting and open ground for hunting.

Eastern Screech-owls come in two color morphs: grey and red, both of which camouflage into trees extremely well.  In addition to the usual owl diet of small rodents, they eat lizards, bats, frogs, and crayfish.


5. Northern Saw-whet Owl

Image: CTolman | pixabay.com

Scientific name: Aegolius acadicus
Length: 7.1-8.3 in (18-21 cm)
Weight: 2.3-5.3 oz (65-151 g)
Wingspan: 16.5-18.9 in (42-48 cm)

Northern Saw-whet Owls winter as far south of Louisiana, but they’re not the most common of owls to find in the state.  They love forests, and hunt almost entirely at night. 

The Saw-whet Owl may have gotten its name from its call, which sounds vaguely like a sawblade on a whetstone. Unlike most owls that eat their prey whole, these birds eat adult mice in pieces over the course of two meals. 


6. Barred Owl

Image: NatashaG | pixabay.com

Scientific name: Strix varia
Length: 16.9-19.7 in (43-50 cm)
Weight: 16.6-37.0 oz (470-1050 g)
Wingspan: 39.0-43.3 in (99-110 cm)

Barred owls love swamps and old forests to make their nests, and Louisiana is a perfect place for them. They are quite common in the state, and don’t tend to migrate or move around very much, taking up residence in the same place for a long time.

In addition to their “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” calls, Barred Owl make a wide array of noises, including one that sounds vaguely like a monkey.  Even though they are only a bit smaller than the Great Horned Owl, they are often attacked by these bigger birds. 


7. Long-eared Owl

Scientific name: Asio otus
Length: 13.8-15.8 in (35-40 cm)
Weight: 7.8-15.3 oz (220-435 g)
Wingspan: 35.4-39.4 in (90-100 cm)

Long-eared Owls spend much of their time much farther north than Louisiana.  Their breeding season range goes all the way to Canada, but these birds head south for the winter and that’s when we see them here. 

During the winter, these owls tend to roost together in communities.  Their excellent camouflage and penchant for roosting in dense woodlands tends to make them hard to find. They don’t build their own nests, but instead use abandoned ones from other birds.

Did you know...
The majority of owls hunt at night.  In addition to their amazing vision, especially in low light, most owls have excellent hearing.  They have asymmetric ear openings to help identify exactly where their prey is, one higher and one lower.  This allows them to hear the sound of a prey animal at slightly different times and triangulate its location.

8. Short-eared Owl

Image: US Fish & Wildlife Service | publicdomainfiles.com

Scientific name: Asio flammeus
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.  Preferring to breed farther north than Louisiana, it can be found in our state in the winter.

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.


Where to See Owls in Louisiana:

Louisiana is full of great parks and other wild areas to go bird-watching.  There are multiple birding trails that encompass every area of the state, from wetland trails along the Gulf coast to Red River and Mississippi River trails. 

Many Louisiana State Parks offer a variety of wildlife viewing, and some of them have special programs specifically for owl-watching.  Audubon Louisiana also has great resources for starting your birding trips and a lot of great information about other wildlife as well.  

Local organizations like the Baton Rouge Audubon Society or the Orleans Audubon Society are also excellent places to find places in your area where you may be able to see the owls mentioned here. 

Also, if you live in an area that is a good home for one of these species of owls, consider getting a nesting box for them to live, and be a good steward to owls and other animals in your neighborhood.  

Want to increase your chances of spotting one of these raptors?

Consider some binoculars or a spotting scope!

The 5 Best Binoculars For Bird Watching
The 5 Best Spotting Scopes
About Jesse

Jesse enjoys bird watching and feeding birds in his backyard, learning about the different species, and sharing his knowledge and experiences.

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