11 Types of Owls in Ontario (with Pictures)

Have you ever heard a mysterious hoot in the middle of the night and wondered what kind of owl it could be?

Ontario is home to 11 different types of owls, each with its own distinct calls and features.

From the tiny Saw-whet Owl to the majestic Great Gray Owl, join us on a journey of discovery as we unveil the secrets of these nocturnal hunters.

Here are the 11 Types of Owls found in Ontario.

Northern Saw-Whet OwlNorthern Saw-Whet Owl
Barn OwlBarn Owl
Great Horned OwlGreat Horned Owl
Long-Eared OwlLong-Eared Owl
Short-Eared OwlShort-Eared Owl
Eastern Screech-OwlEastern Screech-Owl
Snowy OwlSnowy Owl
Northern Hawk OwlNorthern Hawk Owl
Barred OwlBarred Owl
Great Gray OwlGreat Gray Owl
Boreal OwlBoreal Owl

Types of Owls in Ontario

1. Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl

The best way to increase your chances of seeing a Northern Saw-whet Owl would be to familiarise yourself with its call and keep your ears open throughout the night.

The fortunate thing is that they have a distinctive cry that resembles a saw getting sharpened with a whetstone, which is how they got their name, the “saw-whet” owl.

Be on the lookout for a high-pitched “tooo-too-tooo” sound throughout the late winter and early summer months since this is the time of year when they are most likely to be calling more often.

The female Northern Saw-whet Owl maintains a very clean and organized nest.

When the chicks are around 18 days old, she leaves them in the care of the male, who continues to nurse them until they reach 10 to 12 days old and then helps them leave the nest.

With the customary manner of young animals, juvenile owls don’t clean up after themselves.

As a result, by the time the young owls leave their home territory, the nest is covered in decaying pellets, prey, and feces.

They are the tiniest of the owls that can be found in Canada and may be seen all year long in Southern Ontario.

In addition to their little dimensions, they are easily distinguished by the large, spherical heads that are topped with large eyes.

In addition to the fact that they are so few, there seem to be a few additional factors that contribute to the famously difficult nature of locating these owls.

Their patchy brown feathers allow them to readily blend in with the trees that surround them, which is particularly noticeable when they are sitting still on a limb.

These owls are inherently reclusive and seek to keep a low profile in order to avoid being seen by predators.

They are not active during the day, much like the vast majority of other owls.

2. Barn Owl

Barn Owl

The Barn Owl, known for its characteristic shriek, is a year-round inhabitant of the southernmost regions of Ontario.

Barn Owls are not very numerous in the more northern regions of the province or in Canada in general.

This species of owl lives true to its name since it is often seen inhabiting barns and other types of abandoned buildings.

In addition to this, they will sleep inside empty tree trunks and dense clusters of trees.

These nocturnal predators go out hunting in broad areas at night in search of rodents that they will then consume in their entirety.

As a result of the owl’s tendency to consume its food in a single gulp, rather than the food traveling through one end into the other, the owl generates “pellets” that it then regurgitates.

These pellets, which provide a great glimpse into the owl’s diet, are utilized by students and researchers alike in order to get further knowledge on owls and the eating patterns that they engage in.

There are currently at least 46 different subspecies of the Barn Owl found around the globe.

The variant found in North America is the most extensive, while the one found in the Galapagos Islands is the most compact.

The Barn Owl native to North America is about twice as large as its more tiny island relative.

Despite the fact that they are found all over the world, populations in some regions are starting to suffer the effects of habitat loss.

3. Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

When you picture owls, you generally picture the Great Horned Owl, which is known for its loud, booming hoot as well as its long, tufty ears that resemble horns and are where the bird gets its name.

It is among the owls that can be seen the most often throughout North America and may be discovered in practically any semi-open region between both the tropics and the Arctic.

This owl is an extremely skilled hunter that is capable of taking down birds and animals that are considerably bigger than itself.

It can also take out other raptors, such as ospreys. When it can’t get its hands on bigger prey, it will resort to eating smaller animals like scorpions, frogs, and mice.

The Great Horned Owl is well suited to all kinds of weather because of its extraordinarily soft plumage, which acts as insulation against the cold and also helps to mask the sounds of its flight while they are in search of prey.

This incredible bird has such a powerful grip that it can quickly break the spine of enormous prey, and it takes a force of 29 lbs for it to open back up again.

This vice-like grasp is used by the owl in order to remove the spines from its bigger prey.

If you hear a bunch of American crows becomes upset, it’s possible that they are harassing a Great Horned Owl, being the most hazardous predator that they face.

They could continue to annoy the owl for many hours until it ultimately flees the area.

This huge owl calls the province of Ontario home, as well as the bulk of the rest of Canada and the United States of America.

4. Long-Eared Owl

Long-eared Owl

The thick undergrowth provides the Long-Eared Owl with the most favorable conditions for roosting.

According to the website allaboutbirds.org, the majority of the Long-eared Owl’s territory in Ontario is used for breeding purposes alone.

It’s possible to spot them throughout the year in the extreme southern parts of the province, among the Great Lakes.

Therefore, even though you won’t see too many of them throughout the year in the state, they are still there, and you may find them if you understand how and when to search for them.

Even though they like to sleep in the trees, they require regions with plenty of open space so they can hunt.

The ear tufts on the head of the Long-Eared owl, which are responsible for giving the species its name, aren’t the only thing that sets it apart from other owls.

It is possible to hear the cry of the male owl from a distance of one kilometer (now over half a mile).

The Long-Eared Owl produces a number of distinct sounds, including the more common “hoot” as well as a barking noise.

Because of its acute hearing, the Long-Eared Owl is a proficient hunter that is able to catch insects even when it is completely dark.

The only way to find these creatures, which are notoriously difficult to track down, is to search for their pellets on the land.

The pellets of every species of owl are uniquely formed.

They tend to congregate in larger numbers throughout the winter, making it potentially simpler to locate them.

5. Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared Owl

Short-eared Owls like open areas such as grasslands and fields, but they have successfully adapted to human presence by relocating to airports as well.

This is because airplanes flying in for a landing dislodge insects, which the owl can then swoop down on and collect.

They acquired their name from the tufts that grow on the back of their ears, much as the Great Horned Owl does, but the ones on this species are so few that they are almost never seen.

The hours around dusk and dawn, when the Short-eared Owl is most active, may be seen gliding gently over grasslands on its wide, rounded wings.

They are able to locate prey and hunt other small animals and birds because of the extraordinary sensitivity of their hearing.

It is also among the only species that has proven to profit from strip mining, as evidenced by the fact that it frequently nests on recovered and replanted mines after the land has been stripped of its minerals.

This predator of the open country is among the owls that can be found all over the globe, and it is among the species that can be seen during the daylight the most often.

The range of short-eared owls demonstrates that these birds are capable of traveling great distances.

There have also been accounts of short-eared owls landing on ships that are located hundreds of miles from the shore.

During the seasons when they are breeding, Short-eared Owls may be seen across much of Ontario.

On the other hand, you may discover these owls living year-round near the southern part of Ontario.

6. Eastern Screech-Owl

Eastern Screech Owl

The Eastern Screech Owl is a widespread species of owl that may be seen in the majority of forested regions across its range.

It lives in Southern Ontario all year long, close to Toronto and some other places, and is prevalent in any region that has a significant number of trees.

Since of the speckled brown and grey plumage on its body, the Eastern Screech Owl is a disguise expert because it can blend in extremely well with the surrounding trees.

The Eastern Screech Owl is quite good at remaining hidden, although it does make pellets, which it then spits out at the foot of the tree in which it resides.

This not only provides an excellent chance to explore the owl’s food, but it also provides hints as to where an Eastern Screech Owl may be located.

Even though the Eastern Screech Owl usually stays with its partner for life, the male may sometimes mate with two different females.

When this occurs, the second female will force the first female out of her nest and take possession of it for herself.

After that, she will hatch their own eggs, and she’ll incubate both pairs of eggs simultaneously.

7. Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl

In the winter, Snowy Owls may be found hibernating over the majority of Canada, including in the province of Ontario.

Each year, these stunning owls make the long journey to the Arctic areas of Greenland and Canada in search of breeding grounds.

Snowy Owls that also have made their home at a particular location will stay to spend the winter there year after year.

Because of their stark white feathers, Snowy Owls are easier to see than other types of owls if they are in the area where you are.

They sleep in plain sight, and in contrast to the vast majority of other owls, they are diurnal, meaning they are active throughout the day.

Snowy Owls are most successful while hunting in open areas, but when they are perched, they want elevated vantage points.

Snowy Owls, in contrast to several other types of owls, are not inhibited about venturing far from their birthplace.

After being monitored, owls that had been raised within the same nest were discovered hundreds of miles apart and flying in opposing directions from one another.

8. Northern Hawk Owl

Northern Hawk-Owl

The Northern Hawk Owl inhabits practically the whole of the Canadian province of Ontario.

These owls spend most of their lives in the boreal woods of Canada, although they have been known to spend the winters in the northern parts of the United States.

As a result of the country’s population loss, people have been forced to search for food farther south.

Because they are active throughout the day, Northern Hawk Owls are a bit of an oddity in the animal kingdom.

They do most of their hunting during the day; therefore, they are able to recognize their prey by sight, even if their hearing is not as sharp as that of other species of owl.

It also renders them somewhat simpler to recognize in comparison to other types of owls.

This owl is about the size of a barn owl and has an oval body with a long tail that tapers off towards the end. It also has horizontal stripes on its chest.

It is able to be spotted throughout the day and prefers to hunt for its food while perched on the tops of lone trees.

9. Barred Owl

Barred Owl

The hooting of the Barred Owl is a typical sound that may be heard in mature woods and treed marshes.

The hooting cry of the Barred Owl sounds somewhat like, “Who cooks for you? Who prepares the meals for you all?

The barred owl is a common resident of Southern Ontario during the whole year.

The eastern portion of Canada and the United States is where these owls are most often seen, although their territory is steadily increasing farther west.

The Barred Owl is a huge raptor that has a stocky build and a skull that is spherical and smooth.

Their pupils are large, and their eyes are a shade of brown that is so dark it almost seems black.

They feature vertical brown bars on their underparts and vertical striping on their upper portions, as well as white and brown spots on the skin all around their feathers.

Many people who observe birds take advantage of the fact that barred owls may be highly possessive of their territory.

If you happen to be in the nighttime woods and hear their cry, you may attempt to replicate it using your own voice if you want to get their attention.

Whether you’re fortunate, any of these owls might fly over to check you out and see if you’re another owl infringing on their area. If you are, then they will leave you alone.

The greatest areas to seek for them in Ontario are the woods and forests that are located close to bodies of water.

They often inhabit the same regions as the Great Horned Owl, but as soon as they detect that one of these larger birds is in the vicinity, they rapidly leave their habitat.

This is because the Great Horned Owl poses the most dangerous predatory threat they face.

Because of this, they have developed a remarkable kind of camouflage, and juvenile Barred Owls are able to “walk” along tree trunks so that they may get away from their predator more easily.

10. Great Gray Owl

Great Gray Owl

The Great Gray Owl may be seen across much of Canada, including Ontario, during the whole year.

They are among the tallest owls in North America and have exceptionally huge bodies, long tails, and wide wings.

They are known as the Great Horned Owl.

Their eyes are disproportionately tiny and set very close together on their large face discs, which gives them a distinct appearance.

Another distinguishing feature is a white “X” design on each of their faces.

Their names give away the fact that their bodies are coated in feathers that are soft and a silvery grey color.

Great Gray Owls have a reputation for being difficult to identify and elusive since they are not the kind of animal to draw attention to themselves.

They avoid living in regions near humans and instead choose to take up residence in thick pine woods and on the fringes of open meadows.

As is the case with the vast majority of owls, they are also most active during the night when they hunt, namely in the hours leading up to and including dusk and dawn.

It is common for them to construct their nests in dead trees, and they might perch wherever in the tree.

The Great Gray Owl may be the largest in terms of height, but it is not the largest in terms of weight in North America.

In spite of the fact that they do not weigh very much, people have reported seeing them burst through snow that was thick enough to support a person in order to grab a tiny animal.

Because of their size, they must consume at least seven creatures daily that are about the shape of voles.

11. Boreal Owl

Boreal Owl

In Northern and Central Ontario, thick mixed-wood and evergreen forests are common places where Boreal Owls may be seen throughout the year.

These birds are shrouded in mystery and notoriously difficult to locate, particularly during the daylight hours.

Because they choose a new tree to roost in each day, you shouldn’t look for them in the same trees each time you search for them.

They are little owls that are approximately the size of a robin and do not have ear tufts.

Instead, they have huge, square heads along with short tails and stocky bodies.

They wait on perches throughout the night for their prey, which may include small animals and birds, before swooping down to seize their food with their talons.

Generally speaking, Boreal Owls are solitary birds that do not make a lot of noise.

However, beginning in late winter and continuing through spring, males adjust their behavior by calling more often for potential partners. 

During the night, keeping an ear out for these short hoots will give you a greater chance of locating them.


Canada is a huge nation that has a very varied topography.

If you want to view birds, Ontario is among the greatest locations in the world to go.

It is possible that a bird will be found in a range of diverse environments.

It is possible to view water birds in parks and gardens but to observe other types of birds, you will need to go farther into the forest.


What kind of owl is the most prevalent in the province of Ontario?

The great horned owl is not only the biggest but also one of the most frequent types of owls found across Ontario. The size and characteristics of this owl are highly unique. It has huge golden eyes and noticeable ear tufts on each side of its head (horns).

Where in Ontario may one find owls at home?

The wide countryside is the usual habitat of the Short-eared Owl. In Ontario, the ideal times to look for them are late in the day or early in the morning in open areas such as grasslands, fields, meadows, or even airports.

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.

Leave a Comment