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All 9 Owl Species Found in Arkansas (With Pictures & Info)

Known for its lush forests, swamps, and abundant wildlife, Arkansas is a haven for many species of birds, including a diverse array of owls. These mysterious and captivating birds of prey, with their nocturnal habits and haunting hoots, add a sense of enchantment to the state’s rich biodiversity.

In this article, we’ll discover nine owl species that reside in the Natural State, from the prominent Great Horned Owl to the elusive Snowy Owl. We’ll explore their distinguishing traits, seasonal behaviors, and where you can spot them in Arkansas’s picturesque landscapes.

Owl Species Found in Arkansas

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl
  • Scientific name: Bubo virginianus
  • Size: 46-63 cm (18-25 inches)
  • Weight: 910-2500 grams (2-5.5 pounds)
  • Wingspan: 91-153 cm (36-60 inches)
  • Time of the year: Year-round

The Great Horned Owl, also known as the tiger owl, is a year-round resident of Arkansas. This owl is easily recognizable by its large size, tufted ears, and piercing yellow eyes. This adaptable bird can be found in a variety of habitats, from dense forests to city parks.

Famed for their hunting prowess, Great Horned Owls use their strong talons to capture a range of prey, including rodents, rabbits, and other birds. Their deep, rhythmic hooting is a familiar sound in the Arkansas night, often heard in the hours around dusk and dawn.

Did you know? The Great Horned Owl has no actual horns! The “horns” are in fact tufts of feathers, known as plumicorns. The purpose of these feather tufts is not entirely clear, but they might help to camouflage the owl or express its mood.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl
  • Scientific name: Strix varia
  • Size: 40-63 cm (16-25 inches)
  • Weight: 470-1050 grams (1-2.3 pounds)
  • Wingspan: 96-125 cm (38-49 inches)
  • Time of the year: Year-round

Another permanent resident of Arkansas, the Barred Owl, is known for its distinctive hoot that sounds like “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” This owl is named for its barred plumage that features horizontal bars on the chest and vertical bars on the belly.

Barred Owls are fond of old forests with large trees for nesting and roosting, especially near water bodies. They primarily hunt at night, swooping down from their perch to catch small mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. Their dark, soulful eyes and round face give them a uniquely expressive appearance.

Did you know? Barred Owls are more vocal in late winter and early spring, which is their breeding season. During this time, you can often hear a variety of hoots, gurgles, and even cackling laughter echoing through the forest.

Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owl
  • Scientific name: Megascops asio
  • Size: 16-25 cm (6.3-9.8 inches)
  • Weight: 121-244 grams (4.3-8.6 ounces)
  • Wingspan: 48-61 cm (18.9-24 inches)
  • Time of the year: Year-round

The Eastern Screech Owl, a petite and camouflaged owl, is a year-round inhabitant of Arkansas. Don’t let their small size fool you – these owls are versatile predators that will eat anything from small mammals and birds to insects and even crayfish. They can be found in a variety of woodland habitats and are also comfortable in suburban and urban areas.

Eastern Screech Owls are predominantly nocturnal and are known for their distinctive trilling or whinny-like call. They come in two color morphs – red and gray – providing excellent camouflage against tree bark.

Did you know? The Eastern Screech Owl doesn’t actually screech. Its call is more like a soft trill or a haunting whinny, which is often repeated several times.

Barn Owl

Barn Owl
  • Scientific name: Tyto alba
  • Size: 33-40 cm (13-15.7 inches)
  • Weight: 430-620 grams (0.94-1.36 pounds)
  • Wingspan: 80-95 cm (31.5-37.4 inches)
  • Time of the year: Year-round

The Barn Owl is a widely recognized owl species, known for its heart-shaped facial disc and distinctive white and golden-brown plumage. These owls can be found year-round in Arkansas, often making their homes in barns, old buildings, or in the cavities of large trees.

Barn Owls are excellent hunters, using their acute sense of hearing to locate rodents in the dark. They are mostly nocturnal but can occasionally be seen hunting at dusk and dawn. Their eerie, raspy call is unlike the hoot of most other owls.

Did you know? Barn Owls have one of the most advanced hearing systems in the bird world. Their heart-shaped face acts like a radar dish, catching sounds and directing them toward their ears. This helps them accurately pinpoint the location of their prey, even under complete darkness.

Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared Owl
  • Scientific name: Asio flammeus
  • Size: 34-43 cm (13.4-16.9 inches)
  • Weight: 206-475 grams (7.3-16.8 ounces)
  • Wingspan: 85-110 cm (33.5-43.3 inches)
  • Time of the year: Winter

Short-Eared Owls are winter visitors to Arkansas. These medium-sized owls prefer open landscapes, such as fields, meadows, and marshes, and are known to be one of the most diurnal owls, often active during the day, especially at dawn and dusk.

Their hunting technique involves flying low over open areas, using their keen hearing to locate small mammals like voles and mice. They have a distinctive flight style, with irregular wingbeats, and can often be seen engaging in spectacular aerial displays during the breeding season.

Did you know? Despite the name, the “ears” of Short-Eared Owls are not often visible. They have small ear tufts, which are usually only noticeable when the owl raises them while alarmed or agitated.

Long-Eared Owl

Long-Eared Owl
  • Scientific name: Asio otus
  • Size: 31-40 cm (12.2-15.7 inches)
  • Weight: 178-435 grams (6.3-15.3 ounces)
  • Wingspan: 90-100 cm (35.4-39.4 inches)
  • Time of the year: Winter

The Long-Eared Owl, a winter visitor in Arkansas, is named for its prominent ear tufts, which can make it look somewhat like a Great Horned Owl. These slender, medium-sized owls prefer dense stands of trees for roosting, especially near open fields or meadows where they hunt at night.

Long-Eared Owls are known to be quite social, especially outside of the breeding season when they often form communal roosts. These elusive owls are more often heard than seen, with males having a distinctive hoot, often described as a deep ‘hoo-hoo-hoo’.

Did you know? The “long ears” of the Long-Eared Owl are not ears at all, but feather tufts that only resemble ears. Their actual ears are located on the sides of their head, with one higher than the other, which helps them precisely locate prey by sound.

Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Northern Saw-Whet Owl
  • Scientific name: Aegolius acadicus
  • Size: 18-20 cm (7.1-7.9 inches)
  • Weight: 54-151 grams (1.9-5.3 ounces)
  • Wingspan: 42-56.3 cm (16.5-22.2 inches)
  • Time of the year: Primarily in the winter

The Northern Saw-Whet Owl, one of the smallest owls in North America, can be found in Arkansas primarily in the winter. Named for its distinctive call, which some say sounds like a saw being sharpened, this owl is known for its oversized head, catlike face, and yellow eyes.

Though these birds are common, they are hard to spot due to their small size and preference for dense forests. Their cryptic brown and white plumage helps them blend into the tree bark. These owls are predominantly nocturnal, spending their days hidden away in the forest and becoming more active at night to hunt for small mammals and birds.

Did you know? The Northern Saw-Whet Owl gets its name from the sound of its call, which early settlers thought sounded like the whetting (sharpening) of a saw blade.

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl
  • Scientific name: Athene cunicularia
  • Size: 19-28 cm (7.5-11 inches)
  • Weight: 140-240 grams (4.9-8.5 ounces)
  • Wingspan: 50.8-61 cm (20-24 inches)
  • Time of the year: Rare, but mostly seen in the spring and summer

The Burrowing Owl is a unique species that is rarely seen in Arkansas but has been spotted occasionally, primarily in the spring and summer months. Unlike most owls, Burrowing Owls are ground dwellers and are known to take over abandoned burrows of other animals, such as prairie dogs.

These small, long-legged owls are active during both the day and night, often seen standing upright near their burrow entrances. They mainly feed on insects and small mammals. Burrowing Owls have a soft, cooing call, and when threatened, they can mimic the sound of a rattlesnake to deter predators.

Did you know? Burrowing Owls have a fascinating relationship with livestock. They often establish their burrows in pastures grazed by cattle, as the livestock help to keep the vegetation short, improving visibility for the owls.

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl
  • Scientific name: Bubo scandiacus
  • Size: 52-71 cm (20.5-28 inches)
  • Weight: 1.6-3 kg (3.5-6.6 pounds)
  • Wingspan: 125-150 cm (49.2-59.1 inches)
  • Time of the year: Rare winter visitor

Snowy Owls, majestic birds known for their stunning white plumage, are rare visitors to Arkansas, typically appearing during harsh northern winters in what is known as an irruption. These are one of the largest and most powerful owl species, and are easily identified by their nearly all-white plumage and yellow eyes.

Native to the Arctic tundra, Snowy Owls are unusual in that they are diurnal, often active during the day. They primarily feed on lemmings and other small mammals but are known to take birds as well.

Did you know? Snowy Owls have a unique way of hunting. They often use a sit-and-wait tactic, patiently observing their surroundings from a high perch and swooping down on prey once spotted.

Where & How to Observe Owls in Arkansas

Birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts have several options when it comes to spotting owls in Arkansas:

  1. Ozark National Forest: Home to a variety of owl species, including the Barred Owl and Eastern Screech Owl.
  2. Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge: This refuge is a great place to spot winter visitors like the Short-Eared Owl.
  3. Lake Chicot State Park: Here, one can often spot Great Horned Owls and Barred Owls.
  4. Buffalo National River: This area is known for its diversity of bird species, including several types of owls.

Here are some tips for spotting these fascinating birds of prey:

  • Night hikes: Some parks and refuges offer guided night hikes that can increase your chances of seeing and hearing owls.
  • Look and listen: Often, you’ll hear an owl before you see it. Learn the different calls of owls and keep your ears open.
  • Check the trees: Look in tree cavities and dense foliage where owls may roost during the day.
  • Be respectful: Keep a reasonable distance from owls and never disturb their nests. Use binoculars or a telescope to get a closer look.
  • Join a local birdwatching group: Local experts can provide invaluable guidance and help you identify the species you observe.

Exploring Arkansas’s rich and varied habitats to spot these mysterious and elusive creatures can be an exciting adventure. So grab your binoculars and start your own owl-spotting journey!

Owls in Other States

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