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

Mississippi, fondly known as the Magnolia State, is home to a wealth of wildlife, including a fascinating collection of owl species. These nighttime hunters with their haunting calls add an enigmatic allure to Mississippi’s forests, marshlands, and countryside.

From the grand Great Horned Owl to the small Northern Saw-Whet Owl, the owls of Mississippi offer a captivating study in biodiversity and adaptation.

This article will take you through a detailed guide of the owl species that reside in Mississippi, providing insights into their physical attributes, behavior, and the best times to spot them.

Owl Species Found in Mississippi

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl
  • Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
  • Size: 45-63 cm (18-25 in) in length
  • Weight: 910-2500 g (2-5.5 lb)
  • Wingspan: 101-145 cm (40-57 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

The Great Horned Owl, with its robust body and piercing yellow eyes, is one of the most recognized owl species in North America, and Mississippi is no exception. This imposing owl is known for its signature “horns” – tufts of feathers that stick up from the top of its head.

Great Horned Owls are true masters of their environment, possessing excellent hunting skills which they utilize in a variety of habitats ranging from forests to swamps, and even in populated areas like city parks.

The calls of the Great Horned Owl are one of the defining sounds of the nocturnal landscape in Mississippi. Its booming, low-pitched hoots often carry a long distance and can be heard throughout the year, but they are most frequent in the breeding season (January to February).

Did you know? Despite their name, the “horns” of the Great Horned Owl are not actual horns. They are tufts of feathers called plumicorns that don’t play a role in hearing. Their purpose is still a matter of speculation among scientists, but they may contribute to the owl’s camouflage or be used to express emotion.

Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owl
  • Scientific Name: Megascops asio
  • Size: 16-25 cm (6.3-9.8 in) in length
  • 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 is a petite and captivating bird. Don’t let its small size fool you, though. This feisty owl is an accomplished predator, preying on a variety of creatures, from insects and small mammals to birds and reptiles. Found throughout Mississippi, they prefer to inhabit deciduous forests and woodlots, often nesting in tree cavities.

Their unique trilling or whiny-like calls often resonate through the night. These sounds, combined with their excellent camouflage, make Eastern Screech Owls a delightful discovery for any owl enthusiast or birdwatcher.

Did you know? The Eastern Screech Owl comes in two distinct color morphs: a gray phase and a rufous, or red, phase. This color variation helps the owl blend into its surroundings, providing effective camouflage against predators.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl
  • Scientific Name: Strix varia
  • Size: 40-63 cm (16-25 in) in length
  • Weight: 500-1050 g (1.1-2.3 lb)
  • Wingspan: 96-125 cm (38-49 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

The Barred Owl, a sizable species of owl with soulful brown eyes, is a common sight in the forests of Mississippi. Its name originates from the horizontal “bars” on its chest. They inhabit wooded areas and are often found near water bodies, including swamps, marshes, and rivers.

Barred Owls are known for their wide range of vocalizations, the most recognized being their “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” hoot. This unique call, often heard during the night, gives them another name – the Hoot Owl.

Did you know? Unlike many owl species, the Barred Owl is often active during the day, especially during the breeding season or when feeding young. This makes them more visible and easier to spot than some other owl species.

Barn Owl

Barn Owl
  • Scientific Name: Tyto alba
  • Size: 33-39 cm (13-15 in) in length
  • Weight: 224-710 g (7.9-25.0 oz)
  • Wingspan: 80-95 cm (31-37 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

With a heart-shaped face and pale coloration, the Barn Owl is a distinctive and beloved owl species. As their name suggests, Barn Owls are often found near farms, old barns, and other human structures where they can hunt for small mammals such as mice, rats, and other vermin.

Barn Owls are silent hunters, using their exceptional hearing and low-light vision to locate and capture prey. They are primarily nocturnal but can sometimes be seen hunting at dawn or dusk.

Did you know? Barn Owls are one of the most widely distributed birds in the world. They can be found on all continents except Antarctica.

Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Northern Saw-Whet Owl
  • Scientific Name: Aegolius acadicus
  • Size: 18-21 cm (7-8 in) in length
  • 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

Despite its diminutive size, the Northern Saw-Whet Owl has a big personality. Named for its distinctive call, which some say sounds similar to a saw being sharpened, this species prefers dense forests with mature trees, often near a water source. They are primarily nocturnal and are known to migrate, with some moving south in the winter.

Northern Saw-Whet Owls primarily feed on small mammals, but they also eat small birds and insects. They are quite secretive, which combined with their nocturnal habits, make them a rare and exciting find for birders and owl enthusiasts.

Did you know? The Northern Saw-Whet Owl got its name from the early American settlers. They thought the owl’s repetitive “toot-toot-toot” calls resembled the sound of a saw being whetted (sharpened).

Long-Eared Owl

Long-Eared Owl
  • Scientific Name: Asio otus
  • Size: 31-40 cm (12-16 in) in length
  • Weight: 178-435 g (6.3-15.3 oz)
  • Wingspan: 90-100 cm (35-39 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

Long-Eared Owls are aptly named for their prominent ear tufts that give them a striking resemblance to cats. They are slim, medium-sized owls with an orange-brown facial disk. They favor habitats with a combination of forest and open country, often occupying the abandoned nests of other birds, like hawks or crows.

These owls are mostly nocturnal, spending the day roosting in trees where their cryptic plumage provides excellent camouflage against predators. The diet of Long-Eared Owls primarily consists of small mammals, but they will also prey on birds and amphibians.

Did you know? Unlike their name suggests, the “ears” of Long-Eared Owls are not ears at all, but rather tufts of feathers that serve to improve their camouflage and communicate their mood to other owls.

Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared Owl
  • Scientific Name: Asio flammeus
  • Size: 34-43 cm (13-17 in) in length
  • Weight: 206-475 g (7.3-16.8 oz)
  • Wingspan: 85-110 cm (33-43 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

The Short-Eared Owl is a species well-adapted to open country. It is one of the world’s most widely distributed owls, found across the Americas, Europe, Asia, and many Pacific islands. It has an extensive presence in Mississippi throughout the year, nesting on the ground in grassy areas like marshes, fields, and tundra.

Unlike many owls, Short-Eared Owls are often active during the day, especially at dawn and dusk. They primarily feed on small mammals and have a distinctive moth-like flight pattern, which, along with their broad, rounded wings, makes them easy to identify.

Did you know? Short-Eared Owls are one of the few owl species that build their own nests. Most other owls nest in tree cavities or take over the old nests of other birds.

Where & How to Observe Owls in Mississippi

Owls are relatively widespread in Mississippi, but knowing the best places to look and the ideal time to do so can significantly improve your chances of spotting these amazing creatures. Some notable locations in Mississippi where you’re likely to spot these owls include the following:

  • Delta National Forest: This expansive forest offers a diverse range of habitats, making it a great place to spot various owl species. It’s especially known for Great Horned Owls and Barred Owls.
  • Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge: This refuge is a haven for many owl species, including Eastern Screech Owls, which are often spotted here.
  • De Soto National Forest: Another location where you’re likely to encounter owls, including the elusive Barn Owl, which prefers this area’s mix of forests and open fields.

Owls in Mississippi can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, open country, wetlands, and even suburban and urban areas. Barn Owls, for instance, are often found around farmland and open fields where they hunt for small mammals, while Barred Owls prefer dense forests near water.

Quick Tips For Owl Spotting

  • Time of Day: Most owls are nocturnal, which means your best chance of seeing them is usually just after sunset or just before sunrise. However, some species like the Short-Eared Owl can often be spotted hunting during the day, especially at dawn and dusk.
  • Quiet and Slow: Owls can be easily disturbed, so move slowly and keep noise to a minimum to increase your chances of spotting one.
  • Look for Signs: Keep an eye out for owl pellets (regurgitated clumps of fur and bone) or white-wash (owl droppings) on the ground, which can be a good indicator that an owl is roosting nearby.
  • Use Your Ears: Owls have distinctive calls, so learning these can help you locate them, especially in the dark.
  • Binoculars or a Good Camera: These can be invaluable for spotting owls at a distance, especially since they tend to roost high in trees during the day.
  • Respect the Owls: Remember to observe at a distance and avoid disturbing these creatures, especially during the breeding season when they can be particularly sensitive.

Happy owl-spotting in Mississippi!

Owls in Other States

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