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All 8 Owl Species Found in Louisiana (With Pictures & Info)

Louisiana, home to a diverse range of habitats, from coastal marshes to dense forests, is the perfect haven for numerous species of birds, including some of the most captivating owls in the United States.

Owls, known for their distinctive hoots and nocturnal habits, add an enchanting aura to the Louisiana landscape. In this article, we will take a closer look at the owl species found in Louisiana and how you can spot them.

Owl Species Found in Louisiana

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl
  • Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
  • Size: 46 to 63 cm (18 to 25 inches)
  • Weight: 910 to 2500 g (32.1 to 88.2 oz)
  • Wingspan: 101 to 145 cm (39.8 to 57.1 inches)
  • Best Time to Spot: Year-round

The Great Horned Owl, one of the most well-known and widespread owls in North America, is a frequent resident in the varied landscapes of Louisiana. These powerful predators are identified by their tufted ears, large yellow eyes, and a deep hoot that echoes through the night.

Unlike many bird species, Great Horned Owls start their mating season in the depths of winter, with females laying eggs as early as late January or February. These owls are quite versatile in terms of their diet. They are known to take down animals larger than themselves, including other raptors such as ospreys, falcons, and even other owls.

Though primarily nocturnal, Great Horned Owls can sometimes be spotted during the day, especially at dawn and dusk. Whether you are in a city park, forest, or your own backyard, you may be lucky enough to spot this iconic bird of prey.

Did you know? The Great Horned Owl has incredibly strong talons that can exert a pressure similar to that of the average human adult’s hand squeezing at maximum strength!

Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owl
  • Scientific Name: Megascops asio
  • Size: 16 to 25 cm (6.3 to 9.8 inches)
  • Weight: 121 to 244 g (4.3 to 8.6 oz)
  • Wingspan: 46 to 61 cm (18 to 24 inches)
  • Best Time to Spot: Year-round

The Eastern Screech Owl, a diminutive yet fascinating owl species, is a common sight throughout Louisiana. While it may be small in size, this owl makes up for it with its distinct personality. The Eastern Screech Owl has two color variations – rufous and grey. This color adaptation provides these owls with an amazing camouflage ability, allowing them to blend seamlessly with the trees.

Though not actually prone to screeching, the Eastern Screech Owl does have a complex array of sounds for communication, which includes trills, whinnies, and even barks. These sounds vary from soft and musical to harsh and alarming, based on the context. They mainly inhabit woodlands and forests near water bodies and are equally comfortable in suburban and urban environments. Eastern Screech Owls are cavity nesters and will readily occupy nest boxes.

Did you know? Eastern Screech Owls have a unique hunting strategy. They often play possum during the day, staying still and using their camouflage to blend in. At night, they become active predators, hunting everything from insects and small rodents to birds and reptiles!

Barred Owl

Barred Owl
  • Scientific Name: Strix varia
  • Size: 40 to 63 cm (15.7 to 24.8 inches)
  • Weight: 500 to 1050 g (17.6 to 37.1 oz)
  • Wingspan: 96 to 125 cm (37.8 to 49.2 inches)
  • Best Time to Spot: Year-round

Recognized by its haunting hoot that sounds like “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?”, the Barred Owl is a common resident in the forests of Louisiana.

This owl has a round head with no ear tufts, dark eyes, and prominent horizontal barring on the upper chest with vertical streaking below, thus its name, the Barred Owl. They inhabit mature forests, often near water bodies, and their diet primarily consists of small mammals, birds, and amphibians.

Barred Owls are relatively sedentary and often occupy the same territory year-round. They are more likely to be heard than seen as they prefer to hunt at night. However, they are not entirely nocturnal and can often be seen during the day, particularly at dusk and dawn.

Did you know? Unlike most owl species, the Barred Owl has dark eyes. The only other species with dark eyes that you’ll find in North America is the Spotted Owl.

Barn Owl

Barn Owl
  • Scientific Name: Tyto alba
  • Size: 33 to 39 cm (13 to 15.4 inches)
  • Weight: 224 to 710 g (7.9 to 25 oz)
  • Wingspan: 80 to 95 cm (31.5 to 37.4 inches)
  • Best Time to Spot: Year-round

The Barn Owl, with its ghostly appearance and eerie shrieking call, has been the subject of numerous myths and legends throughout history. These owls have a heart-shaped face, long legs, and relatively short tails. Their upper parts are light gray with numerous fine lines and some larger, darker spots; their underparts are white.

As the name implies, Barn Owls are known to roost in barns and other abandoned structures. However, they can also be found in forests, grasslands, and marshes. Their diet primarily consists of small mammals, particularly rodents. Because they hunt at night, your best chance of spotting a Barn Owl is by listening for their chilling calls after the sun goes down.

Did you know? The Barn Owl doesn’t hoot like most owls! Instead, it emits a long, harsh screech, which can be quite unnerving in the dead of the night.

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl
  • Scientific Name: Athene cunicularia
  • Size: 19 to 28 cm (7.5 to 11.0 inches)
  • Weight: 140 to 240 g (4.9 to 8.5 oz)
  • Wingspan: 50.8 to 61 cm (20 to 24 inches)
  • Best Time to Spot: Year-round

The Burrowing Owl, one of the smallest owls in North America, is known for its long legs and bright yellow eyes. Its sandy colored plumage helps it blend in with the open, treeless grasslands where it resides. Unlike most owls, Burrowing Owls are active during both the day and night, feeding on insects, small mammals, and birds.

One distinctive characteristic of the Burrowing Owl is its tendency to nest in burrows in the ground, hence its name. These burrows are often abandoned by other animals such as prairie dogs or ground squirrels. In Louisiana, they are often seen in open habitats like fields, farmlands, and along roadsides.

Did you know? Burrowing Owls have a unique defense mechanism against predators. When alarmed, they mimic the rattling buzz of a rattlesnake to deter potential threats from their burrows!

Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Northern Saw-Whet Owl
  • Scientific Name: Aegolius acadicus
  • Size: 17 to 22 cm (6.7 to 8.7 inches)
  • Weight: 54 to 151 g (1.9 to 5.3 oz)
  • Wingspan: 42 to 56.3 cm (16.5 to 22.2 inches)
  • Best Time to Spot: Spring and fall during migration, and winter

Small but fierce, the Northern Saw-Whet Owl is one of the lesser-known and elusive owls found in Louisiana. It’s a petite bird with a catlike face, oversized head, and bright yellow eyes. Their primary habitat includes dense thickets or forests, especially during the day when they roost. At night, they become active hunters, feeding mainly on small mammals.

These owls are hard to spot due to their nocturnal habits and the high-pitched too-too-too call that is often inaudible to humans. During the spring and fall migration, you might be lucky enough to spot them as they move between their breeding and wintering grounds.

Did you know? The “saw-whet” in its name refers to the owl’s call, which sounds similar to the whetting (sharpening) of a saw against a file!

Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared Owl
  • Scientific Name: Asio flammeus
  • Size: 34 to 43 cm (13 to 17 inches)
  • Weight: 206 to 475 g (7.3 to 16.8 oz)
  • Wingspan: 85 to 110 cm (33.5 to 43.3 inches)
  • Best Time to Spot: Year-round, most active during dusk and dawn

The Short-Eared Owl is a medium-sized owl known for its preference for open fields and marshes rather than dense forests. The ‘short-eared’ part of their name comes from small tufts of feathers located on the top of their head, which appear to be ears. However, these tufts are often difficult to see, so they aren’t as helpful for identification.

These owls are one of the few species that can be spotted during daylight hours, especially during the breeding season. They have a wide, erratic flight pattern and can be seen gliding low over open fields in search of their next meal, which typically consists of small mammals like mice and voles.

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

Long-Eared Owl

Long-Eared Owl
  • Scientific Name: Asio otus
  • Size: 31 to 40 cm (12 to 16 inches)
  • Weight: 178 to 435 g (6.3 to 15.3 oz)
  • Wingspan: 90 to 100 cm (35 to 39 inches)
  • Best Time to Spot: Fall through spring during its non-breeding season

Long-Eared Owls, with their distinct long ear tufts and large orange eyes, are forest-dwelling birds primarily found in dense forests or woodlands across North America. Their cryptic plumage provides excellent camouflage against tree bark, making them difficult to spot during the day when they are roosting.

During the night, they venture out to hunt in open habitats, relying on their keen hearing to locate small mammals, birds, and insects. Long-Eared Owls are quite elusive and are often more heard than seen, so catching a glimpse of one is always a treat.

Did you know? When a Long-Eared Owl feels threatened, it elongates its body and tightens its feathers to appear larger and more intimidating to predators!

Where & How to Observe Owls in Louisiana

Louisiana, with its variety of habitats ranging from marshes and swamps to forests and fields, is a great place to spot owls. While each species has its preference for certain types of habitats, here are a few places you might want to explore if you’re hoping to see these remarkable birds:

  1. Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge: This large refuge is home to a variety of wildlife, including several owl species. You might spot the Great Horned Owl or the Eastern Screech Owl here.
  2. Kisatchie National Forest: As the only National Forest in Louisiana, this is a perfect location for the Barred Owl and the Barn Owl, which prefer forested habitats.
  3. Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge: In this refuge, you have a good chance of spotting the Burrowing Owl, which likes open habitats.
  4. Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve: With its combination of wetlands, marshes, and forests, this park is ideal for spotting a variety of owl species.

When trying to spot owls, remember that most species are nocturnal and are most active during the night. However, some species like the Short-Eared Owl can be active during the day as well.

Quick Tips For Owl Spotting

  • Be Patient and Quiet: Owls are elusive creatures. Spend time in their habitat, stay still, and keep noise to a minimum.
  • Listen for Their Calls: Owls have distinctive calls which can be heard from a long distance. Familiarize yourself with their calls to increase your chances of spotting them.
  • Look for Signs: Look out for signs of owls such as pellets, droppings, or feathers.
  • Use Binoculars: Owls are often high up in trees or camouflaged within their environment. A good pair of binoculars can help you spot them.
  • Respect Their Space: If you are lucky enough to spot an owl, maintain a respectful distance. Don’t disturb them or their nests.

With a bit of patience and some good fortune, you’ll hopefully get to witness these remarkable birds during your exploration of Louisiana’s great outdoors. Happy owl spotting!

Owls in Other States

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