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All 11 Owl Species Found in Maine (With Pictures & Info)

Maine, the Pine Tree State, is renowned for its rugged coastline, heavy forests, picturesque waterways, and a host of wildlife that call these habitats home. Among the state’s wildlife are an impressive array of owls – these enigmatic, nocturnal birds of prey are a crucial part of Maine’s ecosystems, controlling rodent populations and adding to the state’s biodiversity.

From the majestic Great Horned Owl to the elusive Boreal Owl, this article offers a comprehensive guide to the owls that can be found in Maine. Read on to discover the fascinating world of Maine’s owls!

Owl Species Found in Maine

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl
  • Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
  • Size: 46-63 cm (18-24.8 in)
  • Weight: 910-2500 g (2-5.5 lb)
  • Wingspan: 101-145 cm (39.8-57 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

The Great Horned Owl, also known as the tiger owl, is the most common owl species in North America and is easily identified by its large size and prominent ear tufts. In Maine, it can be spotted year-round in forests, open woodlands, and even in urban parks and suburban areas.

The Great Horned Owl is one of the most powerful birds of prey in the state. It primarily feeds on small mammals such as rabbits and rodents, but is also known to take on larger prey like ducks, other birds of prey, and even skunks. Its highly versatile diet is a testament to its adaptability and hunting prowess.

Great Horned Owls have a distinctive hoot that resonates through their habitats, especially during their breeding season in late winter. The calls are deep and sonorous, and can often be heard echoing through the night.

Did you know? Great Horned Owls have a grip strength of about 500 psi, which is comparable to a large dog’s bite and far stronger than the human grip (about 20 psi). This allows them to catch and kill prey much larger than themselves.

Eastern Screech Owl

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

The Eastern Screech Owl, despite its name, doesn’t truly screech. Its call is more of a haunting whinny or soft trill, making it one of the most recognizable sounds in the eastern woodlands. In Maine, it can be spotted throughout the year in forests and woodland areas, and they even adapt well to suburban and urban environments.

These owls are small and stout with rounded wings and a large head. They are known for their excellent camouflage— their grey or reddish-brown feathers allow them to blend seamlessly with the tree bark.

Their diet primarily consists of small creatures like mice, bats, and small birds. However, they have been known to take on prey larger than themselves when the opportunity presents itself.

Did you know? The Eastern Screech Owl is a master of disguise. When threatened, it stretches its body and tightens its feathers to resemble a branch or tree stub, helping it hide in plain sight.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl
  • Scientific Name: Strix varia
  • Size: 40-63 cm (15.7-24.8 in)
  • Weight: 500-1050 g (1.1-2.3 lb)
  • Wingspan: 96-125 cm (37.8-49.2 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

The Barred Owl, named for its barred plumage, is another common owl species in Maine that can be spotted year-round. It prefers large, mature forests near water bodies, making Maine’s vast wilderness a perfect habitat.

The Barred Owl is recognizable by its hooting call, which sounds like the phrase “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” They are relatively large owls with a round head and no ear tufts.

These owls primarily hunt at night and feed on a variety of small animals, including mice, squirrels, rabbits, and sometimes even other birds and amphibians.

Did you know? Unlike most owl species, Barred Owls are known to be quite vocal in the daytime. Their distinct hooting call can often be heard in daylight hours, especially during their mating season.

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl
  • Scientific Name: Bubo scandiacus
  • Size: 53-65 cm (20.9-25.6 in)
  • Weight: 1.6-2.9 kg (3.5-6.4 lb)
  • Wingspan: 125-150 cm (49.2-59.1 in)
  • Time of the Year: Winter

The Snowy Owl is a guest in the cold winters of Maine. The bird breeds in the Arctic tundra and migrates south during the harsh Arctic winters. Known for their stunning white feathers, these owls are among the largest and most easily recognized owl species.

Snowy Owls prefer open fields and coastal dunes where they can hunt for small mammals and birds, their primary food sources. Unlike many owls, they’re diurnal, meaning they hunt both day and night.

The Snowy Owl gained some fame through the “Harry Potter” series, as Harry’s pet owl, Hedwig, is of this species.

Did you know? Unlike many other owl species, Snowy Owls are very active during the day, especially in the summer months when Arctic daylight can last 24 hours!

Long-Eared Owl

Long-Eared Owl
  • Scientific Name: Asio otus
  • Size: 31-40 cm (12.2-15.7 in)
  • Weight: 178-435 g (6.3-15.3 oz)
  • Wingspan: 86-100 cm (33.9-39.4 in)
  • Time of the Year: Winter

The Long-Eared Owl, named for its long ear tufts that resemble mammalian ears, is another winter visitor to Maine. They breed in the northern and western United States and migrate eastwards and southwards when the weather cools.

These slender, medium-sized owls prefer dense stands of trees for roosting during the day and open grasslands or fields for hunting at night. Their diet primarily consists of small mammals, particularly rodents.

The Long-Eared Owl’s call is a deep, low “hoo-hoo-hoo”, repeated a few times, and it can often be heard at night, particularly during the breeding season.

Did you know? Long-Eared Owls are communal roosters. During the non-breeding season, they often roost together in groups, sometimes with several dozen owls in one location!

Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared Owl
  • Scientific Name: Asio flammeus
  • Size: 34-43 cm (13.4-16.9 in)
  • Weight: 206-475 g (7.3-16.8 oz)
  • Wingspan: 85-110 cm (33.5-43.3 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

The Short-Eared Owl is a unique species that can be seen in Maine throughout the year. They are known for their distinct behavior of hunting during both the day and night, unlike most owl species which are primarily nocturnal. Short-Eared Owls prefer wide open spaces, like grasslands and marshes, as their hunting grounds.

These owls are so named because of their short feather tufts that look like small ears. Their diet primarily consists of voles and other small mammals, but they are also known to eat birds. Short-Eared Owls have a wide global distribution and are one of the most widely traveled of all owl species.

Did you know? Short-Eared Owls perform an elaborate and captivating aerial display during courtship, involving wing-clapping, spiraling flights, and hooting calls.

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl
  • Scientific Name: Athene cunicularia
  • Size: 19-28 cm (7.5-11.0 in)
  • Weight: 140-240 g (4.9-8.5 oz)
  • Wingspan: 50-61 cm (19.7-24.0 in)
  • Time of the Year: Rarely, during migration

The Burrowing Owl is not a common sight in Maine but has been occasionally spotted during migration. Unlike most owls, the Burrowing Owl is active during the day, especially in the early morning and late afternoon. Its name derives from its habit of living in burrows dug by other animals such as prairie dogs and ground squirrels.

These petite owls have a rounded head with no ear tufts, and their upper body is speckled with brown and white. They primarily feed on insects and small mammals. Burrowing Owls are known for their interesting behaviors, such as bobbing their head when alarmed and mimicking the rattling sound of a rattlesnake to deter predators.

Did you know? Burrowing Owls are one of the smallest owl species, and unlike most owls, they are often seen on the ground or perched on low posts, instead of high tree branches.

Northern Hawk Owl

Northern Hawk Owl
  • Scientific Name: Surnia ulula
  • Size: 35-43 cm (13.8-16.9 in)
  • Weight: 300-400 g (10.6-14.1 oz)
  • Wingspan: 70-84 cm (27.6-33.1 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round, but sightings are rare

The Northern Hawk Owl is a rare sight in Maine, and spotting one is a treat for birdwatchers. This species gets its name from its hawk-like appearance and hunting behavior. This owl prefers boreal forests and is not often found in urban areas.

Northern Hawk Owls have elongated bodies and wings, and they lack the distinct ear tufts many owl species have. Their diet primarily consists of small mammals and birds. Unusually for an owl, the Northern Hawk Owl hunts mostly by day, particularly in the late afternoon and early morning.

Did you know? The Northern Hawk Owl can spot its prey from up to 800 meters (half a mile) away.

Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Northern Saw-Whet Owl
  • Scientific Name: Aegolius acadicus
  • Size: 17-22 cm (6.7-8.7 in)
  • Weight: 54-151 g (1.9-5.3 oz)
  • Wingspan: 42-56.3 cm (16.5-22.2 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

The Northern Saw-Whet Owl is a year-round resident of Maine. This species is among the smallest owls in North America. It has a brown head with no ear tufts and large, yellow eyes.

Northern Saw-Whet Owls are mostly active at night, feeding on small rodents and occasionally birds. Despite their small size, they are quite fierce and are known to take down prey larger than themselves. These owls prefer dense forests, where their small size and dappled brown plumage make them difficult to spot.

Did you know? The name “saw-whet” comes from one of this owl’s many calls, which is said to sound similar to a saw being sharpened on a whetting stone.

Great Grey Owl

Great Grey Owl
  • Scientific Name: Strix nebulosa
  • Size: 61-84 cm (24-33 in)
  • Weight: 790-1450 g (1.7-3.2 lb)
  • Wingspan: 129-142 cm (50.8-55.9 in)
  • Time of the Year: Rare, mostly seen in winter

The Great Grey Owl, with its imposing size and penetrating yellow eyes, is a breathtaking sight for those lucky enough to spot one in Maine. It’s primarily a bird of the far north, often found in dense coniferous forests. In Maine, they are most likely to be seen during irruption years when they move south in search of food.

Despite its size, the Great Grey Owl feeds mostly on small mammals, with voles being a particular favorite. The owl has exceptional hearing that it uses to locate prey beneath the snow.

Did you know? The Great Grey Owl is the world’s largest species of owl by length, but much of its size is deceptive, due to its thick feathers. The actual body mass of the Great Grey Owl is much less than that of other large owls.

Boreal Owl

Boreal Owl
  • Scientific Name: Aegolius funereus
  • Size: 22-27 cm (8.7-10.6 in)
  • Weight: 93-215 g (3.3-7.6 oz)
  • Wingspan: 55-62 cm (21.7-24.4 in)
  • Time of the Year: Rare, mostly seen in winter

The Boreal Owl, also known as Tengmalm’s Owl, is another rare sight in Maine. It’s a bird of the deep northern forests, usually not venturing south except in extreme weather. In Maine, it’s typically seen during the winter months.

Boreal Owls are nocturnal and elusive, making them difficult to spot. They feed mostly on small mammals and some birds. The species is named for the Boreal forest, or taiga, the type of habitat where it is most commonly found.

Did you know? The Boreal Owl, despite its elusive nature, has a distinctive call. It’s sometimes referred to as the “phantom of the north” due to its eerie, trilling call and its nocturnal habits.

Where & How to Observe Owls in Maine

The vast, unspoiled wilderness of Maine provides excellent habitat for a variety of owl species. Here are some locations and tips on where you might spot these intriguing birds of prey.

  • Baxter State Park: Known for its rugged mountains and untouched forests, Baxter State Park is a good place to look for the Great Horned Owl and the Northern Saw-Whet Owl.
  • Acadia National Park: As one of the most bird-rich sites in Maine, Acadia National Park provides habitats for a number of owl species, including the Eastern Screech Owl and the Barred Owl.
  • Maine North Woods: The expansive forested area of the Maine North Woods is home to the Great Grey Owl and the Boreal Owl. However, sightings of these elusive species are rare and considered a treat for birdwatchers.

Owls can be found in a range of habitats including deep forests, open grasslands, marshes, and even in urban settings. Pay close attention to the specific habitats preferred by different species if you’re looking for a specific type of owl.

Quick Tips For Owl Spotting

  • Listen for Calls: Owls are often heard before they’re seen. Learn the calls of different owl species to help identify them.
  • Look at Night: Owls are typically most active from dusk till dawn. Patience and quiet observation can often yield a rewarding owl sighting.
  • Look for Signs: Keep an eye out for pellets and white wash (droppings) under trees, these are good signs of an owl’s presence.
  • Respect Their Space: Remember to observe from a distance and never disturb an owl, especially during nesting season.

By following these tips and knowing where to look, you can greatly increase your chances of spotting these magnificent birds in their natural habitats in Maine.

Owls in Other States

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