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All 12 Owl Species Found in Connecticut (With Pictures & Info)

Connecticut, known for its scenic landscapes, is home to a vibrant array of wildlife, including a diverse selection of owl species. With its rich woodlands and sprawling coastal marshes, the state provides a wide range of habitats that are perfectly suited for our nocturnal feathered friends.

This guide will explore the 12 species of owls that can be found in Connecticut, detailing their characteristics, habits, and when and where you’re most likely to spot them.

Owl Species Found in Connecticut

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 permanent resident in Connecticut. This versatile predator is the most common owl species in the state, adapting to a wide range of habitats, including forests, swamps, orchards, and even suburban parks.

Recognizable by its ear tufts and large yellow eyes, the Great Horned Owl is a fearless predator. It has one of the most diverse diets among North American raptors, preying on everything from small mammals and birds to reptiles and amphibians.

Did you know? Great Horned Owls are one of the earliest nesting birds. In Connecticut, they can start their courtship hooting as early as December.

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: 46-61 cm (18-24 inches)
  • Time of the year: Year-round

The Eastern Screech Owl, small but mighty, is another year-round resident of Connecticut. These owls can be found in both rural and suburban areas and are known for their excellent camouflage abilities — they blend in exceptionally well with the bark of trees.

Despite its name, the Eastern Screech Owl doesn’t screech. It has a variety of calls, from soft hoots to eerie trills. It is a master hunter, feeding on a wide range of small prey from insects and small birds to rodents and small reptiles.

Did you know? Eastern Screech Owls have two color morphs, red and gray. This color variance provides excellent camouflage against tree bark, protecting them from larger predators.

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

Barred Owls are year-round residents of Connecticut and are primarily found in mature forests, particularly near water bodies. Known for their large round heads, dark eyes, and distinctive barred pattern on their chest, they are one of the most familiar owl species in the state.

This owl species is strictly nocturnal, hunting for a variety of prey at night. They feed on small mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. Their call is a series of hoots and phrases that sound like “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?”

Did you know? Barred Owls are known for their aggressive defense of their nests. They have been known to swoop at humans who venture too close to their nesting sites.

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: Year-round, but more common in the winter

Northern Saw-whet Owls are small owls that can be found year-round in Connecticut, though they are more common during the winter months. They inhabit dense thickets or coniferous forests where they roost during the day. Their small size and excellent camouflage make them a challenging species to spot.

These owls mainly hunt for small mammals, particularly mice. Despite their small size, they are fierce hunters and are known to take on prey larger than themselves.

Did you know? The Northern Saw-whet Owl gets its name from its call, which sounds similar to a saw being sharpened on a “whetting” stone.

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: Occasionally spotted year-round, but not common

The Burrowing Owl, a small and long-legged owl, is not a common sight in Connecticut, but it occasionally passes through. As its name suggests, the Burrowing Owl is unique among owls in that it nests in burrows in the ground, often in abandoned prairie dog or ground squirrel burrows. They inhabit grasslands, deserts, and other open habitats.

Burrowing Owls have bright yellow eyes and lack ear tufts. They are active during both the day and night, feeding primarily on insects and small mammals.

Did you know? Unlike most owls, Burrowing Owls are often active during the day. They tend to do their hunting from dusk until dawn, when they can use their night vision and hearing to their advantage.

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl
  • Scientific name: Bubo scandiacus
  • Size: 52-71 cm (20-28 inches)
  • Weight: 1.6-2.9 kg (3.5-6.4 pounds)
  • Wingspan: 125-150 cm (49-59 inches)
  • Time of the year: Winter

The majestic Snowy Owl is a winter visitor to Connecticut. Known for their striking white plumage and large size, they inhabit open fields and shorelines where they perch on the ground or low posts. Snowy Owls are diurnal and can be spotted during the day.

Snowy Owls feed primarily on small mammals and birds. During the winter, they are known to take advantage of water bodies, preying on ducks and other waterfowl.

Did you know? The Snowy Owl is the official bird of Quebec, Canada. They are also one of the largest species of owl and one of the most powerful birds in North America.

Northern Hawk Owl

Northern Hawk Owl
  • Scientific name: Surnia ulula
  • Size: 36-42.5 cm (14.2-16.7 inches)
  • Weight: 300-400 grams (10.6-14.1 ounces)
  • Wingspan: 69-80 cm (27.2-31.5 inches)
  • Time of the year: Rarely seen, typically in the winter

The Northern Hawk Owl is a rare sight in Connecticut, typically spotted during the winter months. Its name comes from its resemblance to hawks, particularly when seen from a distance, thanks to its long tail and lack of the distinct ‘ear’ tufts seen in many other owls.

They prefer coniferous forests and open spaces and are known to perch on high points, such as the tops of trees, while hunting for prey. The diet of Northern Hawk Owls primarily consists of small mammals and some birds.

Did you know? Unlike most owls, the Northern Hawk Owl hunts mainly during the day. It also has exceptional vision, allowing it to spot prey from up to half a mile away.

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: Primarily in the winter, but some year-round

The Long-Eared Owl, named for its prominent ear tufts, can be found in Connecticut primarily during the winter months, though some are known to stay year-round. It prefers mixed forests and woodland areas, often roosting in dense foliage during the day.

These owls are nocturnal hunters, preying mostly on small mammals, particularly rodents. They have a distinct call, often described as a deep, low hoot, repeated several times.

Did you know? Long-Eared Owls are very secretive and can be challenging to spot. They roost in trees during the day, blending in perfectly with their surroundings due to their cryptic plumage.

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

The Short-Eared Owl is a medium-sized owl that typically visits Connecticut during the winter months. Preferring open habitats like fields, marshes, and grasslands, these owls often nest on the ground. Their round heads with small ear tufts and large eyes give them a distinctive appearance.

Short-Eared Owls hunt mostly during dawn and dusk, preying upon small mammals and birds. Their flight pattern is distinctive, often appearing buoyant and moth-like when they’re hunting.

Did you know? The Short-Eared Owl is one of the most widely distributed owls, found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica.

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

Barn Owls are year-round residents in Connecticut. Recognizable by their heart-shaped faces and pale coloring, these owls prefer open habitats like farmlands and meadows. They often nest in barns, old buildings, or other structures, hence their name.

Barn Owls hunt primarily at night, relying on their exceptional hearing to locate prey. They eat mostly small mammals, particularly rodents.

Did you know? The Barn Owl’s ability to control rodent populations makes them very valuable for pest control, often encouraged by farmers to nest in their barns or on their property.

Boreal Owl

Boreal Owl
  • Scientific name: Aegolius funereus
  • Size: 22-27 cm (8.7-10.6 inches)
  • Weight: 100-170 grams (3.5-6 ounces)
  • Wingspan: 55-62 cm (21.6-24.4 inches)
  • Time of the year: Rarely seen, more likely in the winter

The Boreal Owl is a small and elusive owl that is rarely seen in Connecticut, and more likely during the winter months. They prefer coniferous forests and are highly nocturnal, hunting for small mammals, particularly voles, at night.

These owls have a distinct call that can be heard at night, a series of clear notes that drop in pitch towards the end. Although they are difficult to spot, the discovery of a Boreal Owl is always a notable event for birdwatchers in Connecticut.

Did you know? Boreal Owls are also known as “Tengmalm’s Owls” in Europe. Their populations are stable and widespread across the globe but remain seldom seen due to their remote habitats and nocturnal behavior.

Great Gray Owl

Great Grey Owl
  • Scientific name: Strix nebulosa
  • Size: 61-84 cm (24-33 inches)
  • Weight: 790-1450 grams (1.7-3.2 pounds)
  • Wingspan: 142 cm (56 inches)
  • Time of the year: Very rare, no specific season

The Great Gray Owl, known for its impressive size and distinctive appearance, is a very rare sight in Connecticut. It is the largest owl by length in North America, with a gray face surrounded by a ring of dark feathers, a yellow beak, and large facial disks.

Great Gray Owls are elusive and primarily reside in dense, coniferous forests in the far north. They mainly feed on small mammals, especially voles, hunting by perching and then swooping down on their prey.

Did you know? Despite being the longest owl in North America, the Great Gray Owl is not the heaviest. Much of its size is actually fluffy feathers, and its actual body and weight are quite a bit smaller than they appear.

Where & How to Observe Owls in Connecticut

Connecticut, with its diverse habitats, offers various opportunities for owl spotting. Here are some places where you might have luck:

  1. White Memorial Conservation Center: Located in Litchfield, this nature center is home to Barred Owls and Eastern Screech Owls.
  2. Hammonasset Beach State Park: This coastal site is a good spot for winter-visiting Snowy Owls.
  3. Shepaug Eagle View Point: Known for wintering eagles, this spot also hosts visiting Northern Saw-whet Owls.
  4. Sherwood Island State Park: This park is another coastal location where Snowy Owls have been sighted in the winter.
  5. Bent of the River Audubon: Located in Southbury, this sanctuary is home to Barred Owls and Eastern Screech Owls.

Different owls prefer different types of habitats:

  • Forest and woodland habitats: Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, Eastern Screech Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl.
  • Open and grassland habitats: Short-Eared Owl, Burrowing Owl.
  • Urban and suburban areas: Barn Owl.

Quick Tips For Owl Spotting

  • Know their calls: Owls are primarily nocturnal and are often heard before they are seen. Learn the different owl calls to increase your chances of spotting them.
  • Night vision: Consider using a red flashlight when walking at night. It provides enough light for you to see, but it is less disruptive to wildlife.
  • Look out for owl pellets: Owls regurgitate the parts of their prey that they can’t digest. If you find these owl pellets under a tree, it’s likely that an owl is roosting above.
  • Respect their space: Avoid getting too close to owls or their nests, and avoid disturbing them during the breeding season.
  • Join local birding clubs or groups: They often have field trips and outings where experienced birders can help you spot owls.

Remember, spotting owls can require a mix of knowledge, patience, and luck. So, keep these tips in mind, and enjoy your birding adventures in Connecticut!

Owls in Other States

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