8 Types of Owls in Pennsylvania (PA)

Discover the fascinating world of owls in Pennsylvania, where eight distinct species soar the skies and call the woods their home.

From the iconic Great Horned Owl to the elusive Saw-whet Owl, each species has its own unique traits and adaptations that make them remarkable hunters and survivors in the Keystone State.

Get ready to be amazed by the diversity of these nocturnal creatures and learn about their different calls, behaviors, and habitats.

Keep reading to explore the eight types of owls in Pennsylvania.

Great Horn OwlGreat Horn Owl
Western Screech OwlWestern Screech Owl
Short-Eared OwlShort-Eared Owl
Barn OwlBarn Owl
Barred OwlBarred Owl
Northern Saw-Whet OwlNorthern Saw-Whet Owl
Snowy OwlSnowy Owl
Long-Eared OwlLong-Eared Owl

Types of Owls in Pennsylvania

1. Great Horn Owl

Great Horned Owl

The hoot that the great horned owl makes is instantly recognizable, in large part due to the fact that it has been used in famous movie series like the Harry Potter movie series.

These enormous owls might weigh as much as 5 lbs and a half on their own.

They are able to bring down powerful prey like ospreys and falcons because of their powerful flight capabilities and enormous claws.

When they get their claws wrapped around anything, it takes 27 pounds of power to get them to untangle themselves.

These feathered creatures may be found in every region of North America, all the way from southern Mexico to the furthest reaches of Alaska.

It is among the owls that can be found the most often and can be seen living across mountains, deserts, plains, and woods.

There is no place in Pennsylvania where the great horned owl does not feel at home, and that includes the city, as well as the suburbs and the wilderness regions.

All of this indicates that there is a good possibility that you will be likely to spot one.

It is available everywhere in the state of Pennsylvania.

Find the enormous bird that has golden yellow eyes and large tufts of hair near its ears. It’s easy to see.

They might possess cinnamon or charcoal coloring with barring that sits on a cream or light grey body.

If you are astonished, contrary to what you may have heard, they are not really capable of moving their heads through a full 365 degrees.

They are, nevertheless, capable of rotating their head about one hundred eighty degrees, making the look that their head is spinning in a full circle.

Because these birds’ eyes are fixed in place, they must move their heads backward to forth in order to simulate the movement of their eyes.

It is capable of hunting its preferred foods, which include frogs, rodents, and raptors, including falcons, osprey, and other owls, because of its remarkable ability to move its head thus far in any direction.

2. Western Screech Owl

Western Screech-Owl

As you may have guessed, the eastern screech owl and the western screech owl are linked to one another.

There is some crossover in the Rocky Mountains between the ranges inhabited by this owl and its western cousin’s ranges.

This owl resides on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains.

They are widespread throughout the state of Pennsylvania and may be seen there at any time of the year.

The eastern screech owl is quite good at concealing itself. Their mottled appearance, which may be grey or reddish brown, allows them to blend in perfectly with the bark of the trees on which they prefer to sit and build their nests.

It’s possible that you may not recognize them until you witness the brilliant yellow light emanating from their eyes.

They possess a golden beak and noticeable ear tufts, in addition to a black V in the space between their eyes.

The fact that these owls hunt at night makes it much more difficult to see them in their natural habitat.

Your best method is to maintain an ear out for the whiny trill sound they produce and then to keep a vigilant lookout for them.

When they go out looking for food, they make a lot of noise.

They consume a variety of foods, including amphibians, insects, small animals, and earthworms. 

If you are not a huge fan of viewing birds at night, one alternative is to gaze in the holes of trees as you travel through their natural habitat.

You need to be able to observe them even when they are dozing off throughout the day.

3. Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared Owl

You were correct if you answered that these particular owls possess tiny ear tufts.

Owls are capable of hunting and detecting possible threats because they have ear tufts that assist in guiding sound to their ears.

The ear tufts of short-eared owls are miniature and resemble miniature horns in appearance.

They are easily distinguishable from other owls because of the white and brown markings that are bordered with black bars.

The face is cream-colored, but the golden eyes have heavy black borders surrounding them.

Their recognizable features make it simpler to locate them, but the fact that they’re active during the day makes it even less difficult to miss them.

They also have a particular flying pattern that is identical to that of a moth, which makes detection much easier.

They do not like forested places as many other types of owls do, though.

They like wide areas and meadows where they might lie in wait for prey while listening to the sounds it makes and watching it move.

Then, in order to capture their prey, which may range from rats and mice to rabbits, bats, lemmings, and, they would fly upward and then plunge below.

They even make their nests in the soil shrews.

Only during the colder months of the year can you see short-eared owls across the state of Pennsylvania.

4. Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Because it prefers to make its home in deserted barns and other structures in rural regions, the barn owl received its name from this behavior.

In addition to this, they will nest inside the crevices of trees.

They hunt by flying over wide regions and keeping an ear out for potential prey.

You probably have guessed that they have exceptional hearing.

The face of a barn owl is easily distinguishable from that of other owls.

They have huge, black eyes that are set in a heart-shaped face that is immaculately white.

Their wings and back have a speckled appearance and might be a grey, golden, or cinnamon color. 

When they’re flying, the underparts of their wings and their breast are both white, giving the impression that the whole animal is white when seen from above.

They lack the ear tufts that are characteristic of other owls, such as the great horned owl.

Juvenile barn owls will travel a great distance from the location where they were hatched in order to locate their individual territory; however, once they choose a location that they feel suitable, they will remain there for the rest of their lives.

As soon as they locate a suitable dwelling, they immediately begin the search for the tiny animals that provide the majority of their diet, which include lemmings, rats, voles, and mice.

In addition to that, they will consume bats, rabbits, and small birds.

The only places in Mexico and the United States where barn owls are absent are a few pockets in the northern and central states, such as North Dakota.

Even though it may be seen across Pennsylvania during the whole year, the owl is already on the endangered species list there.

5. Barred Owl

Barred Owl

The barred owl and the great horned owl are both around the same size; however, the barred owl is somewhat lighter.

They have a patchy brown and white appearance, and their whole bodies are barred in a characteristic pattern.

The bars on their breasts are arranged horizontally, but they are arranged vertically everywhere on their body.

These birds don’t make much of a racket. In most cases, you won’t hear them calling out throughout the day, but sometimes you could.

They stay to themselves.

A barred owl will only be found in a forest environment, regardless of whether it is in a marsh or on top of a mountain.

They are not seen in urban areas or on grasslands at all.

They may be found all the way up into Canada and throughout the eastern United States.

The distribution of these birds has grown significantly over the last several decades, and there are now populations living mostly in Pacific Northwest as well.

They do not travel throughout the course of their life.

They remain in the same location and make their homes in the trees there.

However, if they are unable to find food, they might travel great distances in order to hunt their prey, which comprises a wide variety of animals, such as insects, reptiles, and mammals.

If they are unable to get food, they will travel great distances in order to hunt their tiny birds and prey.

Both the great horned owl and the barred owl prey on the threatened spotted owl, but the barred owl also drives the spotted owl away from its area.

The barred owl is a resident bird of Pennsylvania during the whole year.

6. Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl

The bodies of northern saw-whet owls are typically patchy white and brown in coloration, and their stature is comparable to that of a robin.

They have large golden eyes and a face-like heart, and there is a small white V- shape mark in the space between their eyes.

They scavenge at night for their preferred meal, which consists of deer mice; therefore, they are tough to see.

This is particularly true given that they hunt at night.

However, if you pay attention to the high-pitched screech they make, you can determine whether or not they are around. 

They build their nests in holes in trees at around eye level, so if you watch very closely, you might be able to see one of them there during the day.

However, take care not to wake up the sleeping birds!

They are exclusively found in woods, especially old-growth forests; therefore, you won’t find them in open regions or towns if you seek them there.

In order to reproduce, they travel great distances.

They consume mice and other tiny rodents like muskrats and shrews.

In addition to that, they will consume smaller birds such as sparrows, waxwings, juncos, and chickadees.

They are found all throughout the United States, but breeding populations in the southern half of the nation are very sparse.

However, they have permanent populations across the northern portion of the country, as well as in the Rocky Mountains and western Coastal ranges.

Throughout the remainder of the nation, there are populations that do not engage in reproduction.

During the months of the year when it is not nesting, the northern saw-whet owl may be found in the southern portion of Pennsylvania.

They spend the whole year in the northern portion of the territory.

7. Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl

Snowy owls are beautiful birds to look at.

The males are predominantly white and have brilliant yellow eyes that resemble cats.

Dark brown or even black patches may be seen on the females and juveniles of this species.

As they become older, the males’ skin turns a whiter color.

The Arctic Circle is home to snowy owls, who spend the long summertime days hunting for small animals like ptarmigans and lemmings. Snowy owls dwell in the Arctic Circle. 

During the winter season, they leave the southern sections of the United States and move south to Alaska, Canada, and the most northern areas of the United States.

The vast majority of the time, you will find them squatting or sitting on the ground close to their hunting grounds.

They are also known to sit on fences, telephone or electricity poles, hay bales, and abandoned constructions and buildings.

As they forage on the tundra or meadows, they fly rather low to the ground and examine their surroundings.

During times when food is low in their typical region, you may only see these birds across Pennsylvania very seldom.

They consume items such as lemmings, mice, hares, and seabirds as food.

They are difficult to find in the warmer sections of the United States, but it is not impossible to find them there.

According to the local news station Fox 43, they only visit the state on a very infrequent basis.

8. Long-Eared Owl

Long-eared Owl

Because of their very large ear tufts, these owls were given the moniker “long-eared” to describe themselves.

The tufts are mostly black, with some buff or orange flecks here and there.

Their eyes are yellow, and there are two white lines between them.

They have brown bodies that are speckled and rather thin. These birds are active at night and hunt in open areas or meadows.

Their nests are on trees.

You may often recognize them by the hoots, squeals, and barks that they make. They can be heard fairly clearly.

They almost often do it throughout the night, yet they are capable of flying unusually great distances.

Birds that have made the journey from Canada to Mexico in the span of a single year have been seen by researchers.

Those who reside in or are traveling the state of Pennsylvania must keep an eye out for this particular species of owl throughout the whole of the year, with the exception of several southern regions of the state wherein owls are only seen during the winter months.

Please be warned that finding one of these is quite difficult.

Be on the lookout for these unusual owls in areas where there is a high population of rodents, such as gophers, mice, and voles, since they are the kind of creatures that they feed on.


In this article, we’ll look at the several owl species that can be spotted in Pennsylvania.

Knowing where to look for these raptors and how to identify them is a breeze after having read this article.

So the next time you go outdoors across Pennsylvania, be certain to bring your camera so that you can capture images of these magnificent birds in action.


What are the different types of owls found in Pennsylvania?

The eight types of owls found in Pennsylvania are the Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, Eastern Screech Owl, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Snowy Owl, and the Barn Owl.

Where can I see these owls in Pennsylvania?

You can see these owls in forests, wetlands, and agricultural lands throughout Pennsylvania. Some of the best places to observe them are state parks, nature reserves, and wildlife sanctuaries.

What is the most common type of owl found in Pennsylvania?

The most common type of owl found in Pennsylvania is the Eastern Screech Owl.

Are any of the owl species in Pennsylvania endangered?

The Snowy Owl and the Barn Owl are considered rare in Pennsylvania, but they are not currently listed as endangered.

What is the best time of year to see these owls in Pennsylvania?

The best time to see these owls in Pennsylvania is during the winter months when migration brings some species into the state. However, many species are residents and can be seen year-round.

Source: https://www.pgc.pa.gov/Education/WildlifeNotesIndex/Pages/Owls.aspx

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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