13 Different Species of Owls in Arizona (AZ)

Because of its warm warmth, Arizona boasts a diverse range of ecosystems. There are immense deserts, diversified woods, breathtaking mountains, and breathtaking canyons.

It also serves as a stopover for thousands of bird species, along with many owl species. In Arizona, you may see 13 different species of owls on just a semi-regular occasion.

Some owls travel to Arizona from the north during the wintertime, however, many owls live there all year.

This article delves into the Thirteen different owl species found in Arizona. By the conclusion of this essay, you will be able to determine the difference between each owl type or how to locate them within Arizona, so keep reading!

Flammulated OwlFlammulated Owl
Mexican Spotted OwlMexican Spotted Owl
Elf OwlElf Owl
Ferruginous Pygmy-OwlFerruginous Pygmy-Owl
Northern Pygmy-OwlNorthern Pygmy-Owl
Northern Saw-Whet OwlNorthern Saw-Whet Owl
Long-Eared OwlLong-Eared Owl
Short-Eared OwlShort-Eared Owl
Western Screech-OwlWestern Screech-Owl
Whiskered Screech-OwlWhiskered Screech-Owl
Burrowing OwlBurrowing Owl
Barn OwlBarn Owl
Great Horned OwlGreat Horned Owl

Different Species of Owls in Arizona (AZ)

1. Flammulated Owl

Flammulated Owl
Credits – Wikipedia

Flammulated Owls are specialists of disguise. Their feathers are a combination of dark brown, buff, gray, and white, with flame-shaped patterns. It allows them to integrate into their surroundings.

They also have extra-wide windpipes, allowing them to mimic bigger birds’ noises. This even makes it more difficult for anyone to locate it by noise.

Habitat & Food

This little owl spends the wintertime in Arizona, where it lives in old coniferous woods. They frequently nest in tree holes left by other birds.

Flammulated Owls mostly consume insects. They do not engage in extensive hunts or pursue prey. This is among the reasons Flammulated Owls can be hard to identify.

2. Mexican Spotted Owl

Mexican Spotted Owl
Credits – eBird

One among three Patterned Owl subspecies would be the Mexican Spotted Owl. Its dark brown feathers with white patches and frighteningly black eyes make it relatively as huge as that of the Great Horned Owl.

Mexican Spotted Owls like densely forested ancient coniferous forests, canyons, and pinyon woods. They make their nests in safe places, like tree crevices and ledges.

Habitat & Food

This owl primarily hunts during the nighttime but sometimes hunts during the day too. It typically waits in treetops for prey to come nearby.

The Mexican Spotted Owl usually eats tiny animals like flying woodrats and squirrels. It also consumes bats, birds, and reptiles as prey.

3. Elf Owl

Elf owl
Credits – Wikipedia

Elf Owls are so few that most of them may fit your hand. They also have brownish-gray feathers and no ear tufts.

Elf Owls can be seen in Arizona throughout the spring and summer. They favor arid environments like brushy forests, deserts, and valleys.

They have been observed nesting far above the earth in the tree or saguaro cactus holes.


These little owls are midnight hunters who eat mostly insects. Arachnids, crickets, moths, and beetles are among their prey. They will occasionally consume lizards as well as other tiny vertebrate species. Elf Owls consume scorpions sometimes, but only when the stinger has been removed.

An intriguing truth regarding Elf Owls is that they pretend to be dead when they are attacked.

4. Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl

The Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl would be another tiny bird found exclusively in Southeastern Arizona, particularly in the Sonoran Desert area. It spends most of its time in mesquite and saguaro woods.

The feathers of a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl vary from brown-gray to rusty-red. It has a faintly patterned pale underside.

Like the Northern Pygmy-Owl, the little raptors possess two black dots on the top of their heads. These fake eyes are intended to frighten any predator coming from behind.

Ferruginous Pygmy Owls are nocturnal, however, they are alert throughout the day. Insects, small animals, lizards, and songbirds make up their diet. Because they are nimble and rapid flyers, they frequently dash from their nests to get their food.

5. Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy Owls are tiny, chubby raptors having huge, round heads. It has a brown body featuring white dots on top and a white body having dark brown patterns on the bottom.

It has two eye spots on the back of its head that are supposed to dissuade predators from approaching from behind.

This little species can be spotted throughout the day in Northern and Eastern Arizona. Since these places are habitats for several of the creatures that this owl wants to eat, it likes to reside in forested areas containing vegetation.


Considering their diminutive stature, Northern Pygmy Owls are dangerous raptors. They can hunt and eat animals about two-thirds their body size. They have been typically consumed as chickens.

Their primary food, on the other hand, comprises tiny birds. Thus, you could see them rummaging around garden coneflower feeders. They also eat lizards, insects, and rats, keeping the leftovers in their breeding site or suspending them from thorns.

6. Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl

If you observe a little owl in Arizona, including an enlarged head and really no ear tufts, it’s most likely a Northern Saw-whet Owl. This owl is not just the tiniest throughout Arizona but is one of the world’s tiniest.

Saw-whet of the North Owls features cat-like eyes and faces, as well as a white Y-shape stretching from their forehead to their beak. Their feathers are dark, with white patches above and horizontal white streaks on the bottom.

These little owls spend the majority of the year in deep coniferous trees, however, migrate to deciduous woods in the wintertime. They make their nests in tree holes and spend the day there.

Northern Saw-whet Owls find food at midnight by sitting on low branches and jumping to seize their prey in a single fluid action. They mostly hunt rodents but occasionally consume small birds, bats, insects, and amphibians.

7. Long-Eared Owl

Long-eared Owl

The Lengthy-eared Owl got the nickname from its enormous ear tufts. It has a medium-sized head as well as two white lines among its yellow eyes. It has a complicated set of black and brown feathers that aids in its camouflage.

Long-eared Owls are generally hard to notice except if you recognize when and whether to search. They’re timid and secretive, and their feathers help them blend in.

Habitat & Food

Furthermore, they like to be in woods and meadows near thickly vegetated open regions when hunting.

Long-eared Owls are skilled midnight predators, capable of flying quietly in full darkness. They scavenge during darkness, flying low and open over the earth.

A Long-eared Owl’s major food consists of tiny rabbits and rodents, although it may also consume birds, snakes, and lizards.

8. Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared Owl

Short-eared Owls have medium-sized heads and little ear tufts. Their feathers are brown and white speckled, having black stripes on the underbelly. They have intense golden eyes surrounded by black rings.

Although during wintertime, they may be spotted all around Arizona. They like open places with little flora, including meadows, fields, and grasslands. They make their own nests out of weeds, grass, and plumage found on the ground.

Throughout the day, these birds are quite aggressive and prey. They fly low above the land, similar to caterpillars or bats, to catch their food.

Short-eared Owls serve a crucial role in restoring balance to mammalian-dominated environments. They prefer voles, although they will consume various bats, rabbits, rodents, and smaller birds.

9. Western Screech-Owl

Western Screech-Owl

The Western Screech-Owl is a well-camouflaged owl that looks similar to the Whiskered Screech-Owl and yet is bigger in size. Its plumage is streaked gray, bluish-gray, or darker brown, having huge ear tufts 

Western Screech Owls are significantly simpler to see than Whiskered Screech Owls. They may be found across the region of Arizona.


They live in woods, open woodlands, suburbs, deserts, and farm fields. They typically make their nests in holes found in tree limbs and cactus.

Western Screech-Owls are not always nighttime and dislike the Arizona sun. Even though they are visible until the day, it is cloudy.

The Western Screech Owl feeds mostly on birds and rodents. However, it is an opportunistic hunter that consumes a wide range of species, including animals larger than its own size.

10. Whiskered Screech-Owl

Whiskered Screech-Owl
Credits – Wikipedia

The Whiskered Screech-Owl is one small-sized bird with a rounded head, extra-large yellow eyes, short sharp ear tufts, and wispy bristles at the base of its beaks. It has streaked grey-brown plumage that might be gray or red.

Like other Screech Owls, the Whiskered Screech Owl’s hoot is indeed not screechy of any kind. It’s a gentler, more musical trill.


Because they are one of the hardest owl kinds to identify, little is known about such mystery owls. They are exclusively found in Southeastern Arizona amid mountains, hills,  and valleys.

Whiskered At higher heights, Screech Owls like their nest in the holes of thick oak and sycamore trees. They grab their prey by sitting high up in the air and pouncing. They also fly through the air looking for insects and bats.

The Whiskered Screech-Owl is a nighttime hunter who preys mostly on big insects. It will sometimes hunt rodents whether they are likely to capture.

11. Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owls are little, yellow-eyed, sandy-colored owls that can be seen in Arizona throughout the year. These owls spend most of their time in southern Arizona, although they migrate to the northern section of the state to nest.

Burrowing Owls are unique in because they’re the only raptors whose nest and roost underground. They occasionally construct their own tunnels, but they frequently take over holes dug by other burrowing creatures, like ground squirrels and prairie dogs.

These unusual owls are strong guards of their burrows, adept at imitating the rattlesnake’s rattle to keep intruders out.

The Burrowing Owl is daily, unlike other owl varieties, and it is most active in the early dawn to dusk. It is also highly tolerant of humankind and may be found in playgrounds, roadways, and farm fields. The Phoenix Valley is the finest site to watch a Burrowing Owl in Arizona.

Burrowing Owls mostly consume insects and rodents, although they can consume amphibians, reptiles, and tiny birds. They return any leftover food to their burrows to preserve it.

12. Barn Owl

Barn Owl

The Barn Owl is a medium-sized owl with a heart-shaped face, a white-ish, and a mixture of light rusty-brown speckled plumage. It’s yet another year-round inhabitant owl across Arizona. Barn Owls are common in Maricopa County, in particular.

The Barn Owl’s uncanny beauty and piercing screams have given it nicknames like the Death Owl, Ghost Owl, and Demon Owl. Furthermore, Barn Owls are exclusively nocturnal; they are only seen or heard at midnight. 

But don’t be thrown off because of the nicknames. Barn Owls are fairly timid, so they flee when people approach them. Furthermore, their nests are frequently concealed in hidden holes and crevices, such as tree holes, cliffs, and caves.


Barn Owls are quiet and effective predators with an unsurpassed ability to monitor and capture prey only by sound. They could quickly identify tiny prey hiding under thick plants or snow in full darkness.

Their primary food source is voles, although they also consume birds, rodents, bats, lizards, insects, and amphibians. They consume their food entirely and vomit any extraneous portions as pellets, which female owls utilize as nesting material.

13. Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl sometimes referred to as the Tiger Owl, is a huge, powerful, and aggressive raptor that lives in Arizona throughout the year. It seldom makes its way and generally spends its whole life in the same area.

Its feathers are mottled gray-brown with a pale-brown banding underneath. It gets its name from its long grayish-brown fluffy ear-like tufts, which are its most distinctive characteristic. The face of the Great Horned Owl appears reddish-brown, with frightening yellow eyes.

Habitat & Food

Because of their incredible flexibility, Great Horned Owls may be found practically anyplace in Arizona—and across North America. They’re found in woods, deserts, and wetlands. They may also be found in far more urban areas such as cities, parks, and suburbs.

The food of Great Horned Owls is extraordinarily diversified, consisting of around 200 animal species and about 300 bird species. Fish, reptiles, insects, amphibians, and carrion are also eaten.

They’re powerful nocturnal hunters, yet you may see them sitting on tree branches around dusk, waiting for night to fall. Furthermore, the Great Horned Owl is a fierce hunter capable of taking down enormous prey, including those of the same size.

Check out this article on Types of Owls in Utah.


Arizona’s climate permits the presence of several varied habitats, which invites a variety of owl species.

It makes no difference if you visit the woodlands, canyons, or deserts. You will undoubtedly view several of the most amazing species with your own eyes.

If you’re fortunate, you could even observe them nesting, eating, hunting, and engaging in many other intriguing behaviors.

Even if you do not even reside in Arizona, the thirteen distinct owl species are worth the journey into the wild.


Do owls consume scorpions?

Insects, scorpions, spiders, other birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, invertebrates, and mammals such as rats and mice are all eaten by owls.

Last Updated on March 22, 2023 by Lily Aldrin

About Lily Aldrin

I am Lily Aldrin. I attended Cornell University, where I obtained my degree to become an Ornithologist so I could pursue my love of these magnificent creatures in and out of their natural habitats.

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