I recently wrote an article about the different species of hawks in Ohio so I thought why not cover the types of owls in Ohio while I’m at it. Ohio is known as the Buckeye State and is in the northeast U.S. with Kentucky to the south and Lake Erie to the north, making northern Ohio along the shores of Lake Erie an attractive place to live for several species of owls on this list.
There are 8 species of owls that I could confirm have a range in the state of Ohio based on various sources like allaboutbirds.org.
Owls in Ohio
The 8 species of owls in Ohio 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.
There have been sightings of a few other species such as the Boreal Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, and the Great Gray Owl. However I left them off of this list because they do not have a range in Ohio and sightings are beyond rare.
1. 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 Ohio and can be found all throughout the state. 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.
2. 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 the second largest of all owls in Ohio 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.
3. 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 Ohio 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 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.
4. 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 Ohio. 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.
5. Long-eared Owl
Length: 13.8-15.8 in
Weight: 7.8-15.3 oz
In Northeastern Ohio Long-eared Owls are permanent residents, but in the rest of the state they are classified as non-breeding. 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 have a non-breeding population throughout the state of Ohio, except for in the Northwestern part of the state where they can be found year-round. You may have noticed a common trend with owls in Ohio, more species tend to be year-round residents near Lake Erie.
Your best chance to see Short-eared Owls in Ohio is during the non-breeding season from late November and to mid March. They can fly great distances when they migrate and have a very wide distribution range in North America from Mexico to the Northern tip of Alaska and everywhere in between.
Length: 7.1-8.3 in
Wingspan: 16.5-18.9 in
Weight: 2.3-5.3 oz
Northern Saw-whet Owls are found all year in about the northern third of the state of Ohio, for the rest of the state they have a non-breeding range. Not only is the Saw-whet the smallest owl found in Ohio, but the smallest bird 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.
Length: 20.5-27.9 in
Snowy Owls are slightly larger than Great Horned Owls and their white plumage makes them incredibly beautiful and a treat to see should you ever be lucky enough. They are only found in the northern most parts of the state and in recent years have been spotted more often in the Winter along the southern shores of Lake Erie in Ohio.
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. Snowy Owls are not only the largest but in my opinion among the most beautiful owls in Ohio.