Hello there, fellow nature enthusiasts!
If you’re as captivated by Florida’s wildlife as I am, you’re in for a hoot of a time.
In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at the seven remarkable owl species that call the Sunshine State home.
From the majestic Great Horned Owl to the elusive Eastern Screech Owl, join me on this feathered journey as we explore the diverse world of owls in Florida.
So, let’s spread our wings and dive right into the enchanting realm of these magnificent birds.
According to the Florida Ornithological Society, Six normal species while one uncommon owl variety has been seen in Florida.
|Eastern Screech Owl|
|Great Horned Owl|
Types of Owls in Florida
1. Barn Owl
Barn Owls possess buff-colored backs and white cheeks, chests, and bellies, as well as underwings.
Their faces are round, their wings are long and curved, and their tails are small.
Upon that chests of females are parasite-repelling spots.
The more spots a female has, then the more the male contributes to the nest’s development!
They are so-called because they generally sleep in calm barns throughout the day.
They scavenge for tiny animals at nighttime over open lands such as meadows and fields.
Barn owls eat their prey entirely and vomit pellets two times a day.
The Barn Owl seeks food primarily by sound since it has the best hearing of almost any species investigated.
This enables them to capture prey in low-light conditions, including those hidden behind vegetation or in open areas.
Tree holes, caverns, and abandoned or quiet constructions are all good places for them to build their nests.
The nest is mostly made up of regurgitated pellets deposited in a cup with their legs.
Over the course of one to three broods, females lay 2-18 white eggs.
Barn Owls come in 46 different species and may be spotted on all six continents.
They make a raspy scream cry instead of hooting like certain other owls.
Below are the characteristics of the Barn Owl,
|Scientific Name||Tyto alba|
|Length||12-16 inches (30-40 cm)|
|Weight||14-24 ounces (400-680 grams)|
|Wingspan||39-49 inches (100-125 cm)|
|Habitat||Wide range of habitats, including grasslands, farmlands, forests, and urban areas|
|Food||Mainly small mammals, such as mice, voles, and shrews. Barn Owls are skilled hunters of rodents|
2. Eastern Screech Owl
The Eastern Screech-Owl may be seen most of the year in Florida.
Gray and red color combinations are possible for this small, stocky bird.
They’re about the appearance of a robin, but much bigger, with a large head and almost no neck.
They blend very well with tree bark, thanks to their striped and speckled camouflage.
In woodlands and parks, the Eastern Screech-Owl could be observed.
On cool bright days, you could spot one sunning itself in a tree hollow or by the frenzied mobbing of birdsong when they spot them.
Pellets in a pile are also a huge clue.
They create a vibrating trill and a harsh, falling whinny sound.
Eastern screech owls consume many small creatures, such as insects, birds, reptiles, mammals, and amphibians, and hunt largely at nighttime as well as at dawn and twilight.
Prior to actually jumping from perches to attack, they usually sit there and wait for rodents to pass by.
The Eastern Screech-Owl usually exploits disused woodpecker nesting grounds, as well as other holes or caves, because they rarely dig their own nests.
They don’t contribute any nesting stuff to the hollow.
They deposit their eggs upon what garbage appears to have been at the bottom of the hole/cave.
They produce 2 – 6 white eggs in each clutch.
Below are the characteristics of the Eastern Screech Owl,
|Scientific Name||Megascops asio|
|Length||6.3-9.8 inches (16-25 cm)|
|Weight||4-8 ounces (110-230 grams)|
|Wingspan||18-24 inches (46-61 cm)|
|Habitat||Woodlands, forests, parks, and urban areas, often near water sources|
|Food||Mainly small mammals, birds, insects, and occasionally, reptiles and amphibians|
3. Great Horned Owl
The Great Horned Owl spends the entire year in Florida and North America.
They are huge owls having thick bodies and enormous tufts on their heads that resemble ear tufts.
Gray-brown in color with a speckled appearance and a white patch on the neck, Great Horned Owls are the largest of the owl species.
They have wide, curving wings and make a loud hooting sound.
It is one of North America’s most common owls, and it can be located in a range of habitats, including woodlands, deserts, cities, and grasslands.
These fearsome predators prey on considerably larger birds and animals than they are.
Various raptors that they will hunt include peregrine falcons, ospreys, and other owls.
Small rodents including geese, skunks, mice, and hares, as well as fish, insects, and carrion, make up their diversified diet.
They don’t have a fussy palate and will eat almost anything!
Great Horned Owls make their nests in forests, and they commonly reuse other species’ nests.
They occasionally line the nest with leaves, bark, downy feathers, or pellets, although they don’t always.
They lay 1 – 4 white color eggs.
Below are the characteristics of the Great Horned Owl,
|Scientific Name||Bubo virginianus|
|Length||18-25 inches (45-64 cm)|
|Weight||2-5.5 pounds (0.9-2.5 kg)|
|Wingspan||36-60 inches (91-152 cm)|
|Habitat||Varied habitats, including forests, grasslands, deserts, and urban areas|
|Food||Diverse diet, including mammals (such as rabbits and rodents), birds, reptiles, and sometimes even larger prey like skunks or small deer|
4. Barred Owl
In Florida, the Barred Owl may be seen throughout the year.
In Florida, they are by far the most commonly sighted owl species.
The size of these massive stocky birds is midway between a crow and a goose.
Barred Owls have a speckled design of vertical stripes on their abdomen and horizontal stripes on their backsides and top chest.
They possess a curved tail, black eyes, and a characteristic round head with no ear tufts.
The Barred Owl makes a loud hoo-hoo barking sound.
They sit there and watch for tiny creatures, such as birds, squirrels, rabbits, and voles, from a lofty perch.
They live in large, old woodlands, often near water sources.
In tree hollows, they hatch 1 – 5 white eggs.
Below are the characteristics of the Barred Owl,
|Scientific Name||Strix varia|
|Length||16-24 inches (40-61 cm)|
|Weight||1-2.3 pounds (0.45-1.05 kg)|
|Wingspan||38-49 inches (96-124 cm)|
|Habitat||Mature forests, swamps, wetlands, and wooded areas near water sources|
|Food||Primarily small mammals like voles and mice, but also birds, amphibians, reptiles, and some insects|
5. Short-eared Owl
The Short-eared Owl spends the winter in Florida, with some lingering until June prior to actually migrating north to breed in Canada and northern states.
They’re roughly the same size as a crow and have quite a few ear tufts.
Short-eared Owls have a pale face with black-rimmed yellow eyes and speckled black, brown, and white coloration.
They have short tails and large wings with a smooth finish.
Unlike other owls, the Short-eared Owl hunts during the day, typically between dawn and twilight.
They fly close to the ground, listening for movement from their prey, which includes mice and voles.
Short-eared Owls are therefore unique in that they dig a bowl out of the ground and line it along with grasses and soft feathers to make their nest.
They lay 1-11 white or creamy eggs.
These owls aren’t extremely noisy, but during mating, the males will let out a dozen or more hoots.
They may scream, bark, or whine when defending the nest.
Below are the characteristics of the Short-eared Owl,
|Scientific Name||Asio flammeus|
|Length||13-17 inches (33-43 cm)|
|Weight||7-16 ounces (200-450 grams)|
|Wingspan||33-43 inches (85-110 cm)|
|Habitat||Open grasslands, marshes, meadows, and agricultural fields|
|Food||Small mammals like voles and mice, as well as birds, insects, and occasionally amphibians|
6. Burrowing Owl
A little spotted owl has long, grey legs, the burrowing owl is a burrowing owl.
It has dark upper and whitish lower plumage with brown stripes.
It has huge golden eyes with thick, light brows that conceal them.
They are only found in the Americas.
Burrowing owls are stationary for the most part.
However, those that nest in the far north of their range travel south for the winter.
Burrowing owls can be found in open fields all year in Florida.
Open grasslands, prairies, and other open regions are where they may be found.
Burrowing owls are active throughout the day and are relatively tolerant of humans.
They’re frequently spotted around runways, roadways, golf resorts, parks, and farms.
A quiet dual-note hoot is the most common call.
They nest and roost in tunnels, which are often dug by ground squirrels, prairie dogs, and other burrowing mammals.
This is a protective tactic that mimics rattlesnake activity.
They emit rattling and hissing noises to scare off possible predators, just like the rattlesnake.
Although they eat a variety of things, they mostly eat rodents and insects.
Amphibians, lizards, and small birds are also taken.
These owls hunt at all hours of the day and night.
Burrowing owls are threatened in sections of their range, despite being listed as the least concern.
Habitat degradation and population decreases of burrowing animals, on which they rely pose a threat to them.
Vehicles and domesticated animals frequently kill them as well.
Below are the characteristics of the Burrowing Owl,
|Scientific Name||Athene cunicularia|
|Length||7.5-10 inches (19-25 cm)|
|Weight||4-7 ounces (115-200 grams)|
|Wingspan||21-24 inches (53-61 cm)|
|Habitat||Open grasslands, deserts, and areas with short vegetation|
|Food||Mainly insects, small mammals, and occasionally small birds or reptiles|
7. Snowy Owl
Although Florida is certainly not in their usual range, snowy owls have indeed been observed to travel as far south as that of the Sunshine State on occasion.
The snowy owl is among the most distinguishable owls on the globe, with its distinctive white plumage and brilliant yellow eyes.
The plumage is stippled with black patches on the upper parts while being largely white.
Females have much more spots and mild brown striping than males.
The heads of snowy owls are tiny, with short ear tufts and extensive feathering.
They blend in nicely with the cold polar landscape, frequently appearing as a clump of snow on the ground.
Snowy owls are raptors that live in wide, treeless areas of the Arctic tundra.
They build their nests in shallow scrapes on dry land, commonly on ridges, hillsides, hummocks, and outcrops.
Snowy owls are migratory birds that migrate in random ways.
They erupt south during some winter weather.
Meadows, lakeshores, grasslands, prairies, and coastal environments are among their wintering grounds.
Crop grounds, golf grounds, and airport fields are all places where they can be found.
Snowy owls, unlike other owls, produce a far-reaching barking call rather than the customary hooting.
A succession of raspy Kru Kru Kru sounds is the most typical cry.
Clucking, screeching, grunting, hissing, and cackling are some of the other different sounds.
Another distinguishing feature of the snowy owl is its hunting behavior, which, unlike the other owls, may occur at any time of day or night.
They also lacked the keen hearing that owls have, relying instead on their sharp vision.
They attack from a perch or ascend from the field and swoop down on their victim.
Small animals, notably lemmings, are the primary prey.
Other birds, rodents, and the occasional amphibian, fish, or invertebrate are also taken.
The population demographics of this species are difficult to follow due to their irregular character and the distance from their nesting habitat.
They have few enemies and a large breeding habitat that is generally unaffected.
However, the proportion of snowy owls in the area is thought to have plummeted.
Changing climate, which affects their habitats and prey availability, is a potential hazard.
They are also vulnerable to collisions with autos, powerlines, and fences throughout migrations, especially in the winter.
They are now classified as vulnerable by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
Below are the characteristics of the Snowy Owl,
|Scientific Name||Bubo scandiacus|
|Length||20-27 inches (50-68 cm)|
|Weight||3.5-6.5 pounds (1.6-3 kg)|
|Wingspan||49-59 inches (125-150 cm)|
|Habitat||Arctic tundra, open grasslands, coastal dunes, and sometimes found in southern regions during winter migrations|
|Food||Mainly lemmings, but also a variety of small mammals, birds, and occasionally fish|
As our owl odyssey through the diverse landscapes of Florida comes to a close, it’s clear that these remarkable birds are not just mysterious, but also crucial members of our ecosystem.
From the haunting call of the Barn Owl to the silent flight of the Barred Owl, each species brings its unique charm and significance to the state’s natural tapestry.
While we’ve covered seven types of owls in Florida, remember that the world of ornithology is vast, and there are many more avian wonders waiting to be discovered.
So, the next time you find yourself in the Florida wilderness, keep your eyes on the skies and your ears open for the enchanting presence of these magnificent owls.
They are living symbols of the wild beauty and ecological richness that Florida has to offer, and their conservation is essential to maintaining the balance of our delicate ecosystems.
Let’s cherish and protect these feathered wonders for generations to come, ensuring that the night skies of Florida remain filled with their haunting calls and silent flights.
What is the most common owl species found in Florida?
The Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) is one of the most common owl species in Florida. These small, adaptable owls are often found in a variety of habitats, including urban areas.
Are there any endangered owl species in Florida?
Yes, the Florida Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia floridana) is a state-designated threatened species. Conservation efforts are in place to protect their habitats and ensure their survival.
Are owls in Florida active only at night?
While many owls are indeed nocturnal, some, like the Burrowing Owl, are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. It depends on the owl species and their hunting habits.
What should I do if I find an injured owl in Florida?
If you come across an injured owl, it’s essential to contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or a local wildlife agency for assistance. Do not attempt to handle the owl yourself, as they have powerful talons and beaks.
Can I attract owls to my backyard in Florida?
You can create a welcoming habitat for owls by providing suitable nesting sites, like owl boxes, and by ensuring a healthy population of their preferred prey, such as rodents. However, it’s essential to research the specific needs of the owl species in your area.
Do owls migrate in Florida, or are they year-round residents?
Some owl species in Florida are year-round residents, while others may migrate seasonally. For instance, the Snowy Owl is a rare winter visitor to the state, while the Barred Owl is a year-round resident.
Last Updated on September 15, 2023 by Lily Aldrin