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All 7 Owl Species Found in Georgia (With Pictures & Info)

Known for its lush forests, expansive wetlands, and a myriad of wildlife species, Georgia is a haven for nature lovers and bird enthusiasts alike. Among the array of wildlife the Peach State hosts, owls hold a special allure with their nocturnal habits and mesmerizing calls.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the unique species of owls that you can encounter in Georgia, giving you insights into their physical characteristics, behaviors, and the best times to spot them.

Owl Species Found in Georgia

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

With their distinctive tufted ears and deep, hooting calls, Great Horned Owls are among the most recognized owls in North America. In Georgia, they can be found year-round across diverse habitats, from woodlands to swamps and even suburban areas.

Great Horned Owls are known for their versatility and adaptability. They have a broad diet, which includes small mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Their powerful talons allow them to catch prey larger than themselves, demonstrating their prowess as predators.

Did you know? The Great Horned Owl has no actual horns! Instead, the name refers to the tufts of feathers that stand upright on their heads, which are often mistaken for ears or horns. These tufts help them blend into their surroundings, providing effective camouflage against predators.

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, a diminutive but full-of-character bird, is a common resident in Georgia. They occupy a variety of habitats, including woodlands, parks, and suburban gardens. Despite their small stature, these owls are fearless and have been known to prey on birds and mammals larger than themselves.

Their well-camouflaged plumage makes them hard to spot, but their distinctive trilling call, particularly in spring and summer, often gives away their presence.

Did you know? Eastern Screech Owls come in two different color morphs: red and gray. Both colors provide excellent camouflage against tree bark, but the red color morph is more common in the southern part of the Eastern Screech Owl’s range, which includes Georgia.

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

Known for their haunting calls, the Barred Owl is a year-round resident of Georgia. They can be found in mature forests, particularly those near water bodies. Their dark eyes, rounded head, and “barred” plumage make them easily distinguishable.

While they’re mostly nocturnal, Barred Owls are also occasionally active during the day. Their diet includes small mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles.

Did you know? The Barred Owl’s hooting call, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” is a classic sound of old forests and treed swamps. It is this distinctive call that gives the Barred Owl its nickname, “the hoot owl.”

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

With their heart-shaped faces and ghostly pale color, Barn Owls are hard to miss. They are commonly found throughout Georgia, inhabiting a range of environments from farmland and forests to even suburban areas. As the name suggests, they often choose to roost in barns and other abandoned buildings.

Barn Owls are highly efficient hunters and primarily feed on small rodents. Their keen sense of hearing enables them to locate prey even in complete darkness.

Did you know? Unlike most owls, Barn Owls do not hoot. Instead, they emit a chilling, raspy screech, which has earned them nicknames like “Ghost Owl” or “Demon Owl.”

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Northern Saw-Whet Owl
  • Scientific name: Aegolius acadicus
  • Size: 17-22 cm (7-8.7 inches)
  • Weight: 54-151 grams (1.9-5.3 ounces)
  • Wingspan: 42-56.3 cm (16.5-22.2 inches)
  • Time of the year: Rare, occasional sightings in winter

The Northern Saw-whet Owl is a tiny, elusive bird that is rarely seen in Georgia. Their preferred habitats are dense forests where they roost just above eye level. Even though they are difficult to spot due to their nocturnal habits and small size, their high-pitched, rhythmic tooting song often gives them away.

Despite their size, Northern Saw-whet Owls are capable predators with a diet primarily consisting of small mammals, especially mice.

Did you know? Northern Saw-whet Owls got their name from the sound of their call, which was thought to resemble the sound of a saw being sharpened on a “whetting” stone.

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 visitor

Primarily a winter visitor in Georgia, the Short-Eared Owl prefers open habitats like fields and grasslands. Unlike many other owl species, this bird is known to be most active during daylight hours, often at dawn or dusk.

Their diet consists primarily of small mammals, and their hunting technique often involves a low, quartering flight over fields to catch prey. The Short-Eared Owl’s distinguishing features include its buff body with brown streaks and pale “facial disks.”

Did you know? The Short-Eared Owl is one of the most widespread owls in the world, found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica!

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: 86-100 cm (34-39 inches)
  • Time of the year: Winter visitor

The Long-Eared Owl is a medium-sized owl known for its “ear” tufts, which are actually clusters of feathers that can be raised or lowered. In Georgia, they’re typically winter visitors and are seldom seen due to their nocturnal habits and preference for dense cover.

Their preferred habitats are mature forests, often near open areas. The Long-Eared Owl’s diet is mostly made up of small mammals, but they also take birds, especially when feeding their young.

Did you know? Despite their name, the ears of the Long-Eared Owl aren’t actually long. The “ears” are just tufts of feathers used for camouflage. The owl’s actual ears are located on the sides of its head and are covered by feathers.

Where & How to Observe Owls in Georgia

Where & How To Spot in Georgia

Georgia’s diverse ecosystems provide ideal habitats for a range of owl species. Some prime locations for owl spotting include:

  1. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge: This expansive wetland offers chances to spot Barred Owls and Great Horned Owls, especially near water bodies.
  2. Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge: Located in the central part of the state, this refuge is a haven for Eastern Screech Owls and Great Horned Owls.
  3. Chattahoochee National Forest: Home to mature forests and diverse birdlife, this location is ideal for spotting Barred Owls and possibly the elusive Northern Saw-whet Owl.
  4. Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge: This southern swamp and forest habitat is a prime location for Barred Owls and other owl species.

Different owl species favor different habitats within the state:

  • Forests and woodlands: Great Horned Owl, Eastern Screech Owl, Barred Owl.
  • Open fields and grasslands: Short-Eared Owl, Barn Owl.

Quick Tips For Owl Spotting

  • Evening and night are prime times: Owls are typically most active at dusk and throughout the night. Some species, like the Short-Eared Owl, are also active at dawn.
  • Listen closely: Many owls have distinctive calls which can help you identify them, even if they’re well hidden.
  • Watch for eyeshine: The reflective eyes of owls can help you spot them in the darkness.
  • Respect their space: Owls can be sensitive to disturbances, so it’s crucial to observe them from a distance and never disrupt their nests.
  • Take a guided tour: Local birding tours or night hikes can provide expert guidance and increase your chances of spotting these elusive birds.

Remember, patience is key when it comes to spotting owls. So, equip yourself with a sense of adventure, tread lightly, and enjoy the bird-watching opportunities that Georgia offers.

Owls in Other States

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