Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

All 10 Owl Species Found in Nevada (With Pictures & Info)

Nevada, a state known for its wide-open desert landscapes and rugged mountains, is also home to an impressive array of owl species. These nocturnal birds of prey grace the skies with their silent flight and fill the nights with their distinctive calls.

In this guide, we will explore ten owl species found in Nevada, each remarkable in its unique way. So, let’s embark on this avian adventure and delve into the world of these fascinating creatures.

Owl Species Found in Nevada

Barn Owl

Barn Owl
  • Scientific Name: Tyto alba
  • Size: Medium-sized; height: 32-40 cm (13-16 in)
  • Weight: 224-710 grams (0.5-1.6 lbs)
  • Wingspan: 107-110 cm (42-43 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

The Barn Owl, with its distinctive heart-shaped face and pure white underparts, is one of the most widespread owl species, and Nevada is no exception to its range. It has a preference for open habitats such as marshes, grasslands, agricultural fields, and, of course, barns and other buildings.

This owl species is known for its silent flight, which allows it to effectively hunt small mammals, its primary diet, at night. They have a keen sense of hearing, which they utilize to locate prey in complete darkness. Barn Owls are an essential part of the ecosystem, keeping rodent populations in check.

Did you know? Barn Owls swallow their prey whole—skin, bones, and all, and about twice a day, they cough up pellets instead of passing them through their digestive system. By examining these pellets, scientists can learn a lot about the diet of the Barn Owl.

Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Northern Saw-Whet Owl
  • Scientific Name: Aegolius acadicus
  • Size: Small; height: 17-22 cm (7-8.7 in)
  • Weight: 54-151 grams (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, with its cat-like face, oversized head, and yellow eyes, is one of the most endearing and elusive owls in Nevada.

Although they’re found across the state, their small size and secretive nature make them challenging to spot. This owl species prefers dense forests with thick underbrush where they can hide during the day.

They primarily feed on small mammals like mice and voles, but they will also take small birds and insects. Unlike many other owls, Northern Saw-Whet Owls can often be found at lower heights or even on the ground, especially when hunting.

Did you know? The Northern Saw-Whet Owl got its unique name from its call, which was said to resemble the sound of a saw being sharpened on a whetting stone.

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl
  • Scientific Name: Athene cunicularia
  • Size: Small; height: 19-28 cm (7.5-11 in)
  • Weight: 140-240 grams (5-8.5 oz)
  • Wingspan: 50.8-61 cm (20-24 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

Unlike most owls, the Burrowing Owl is a ground dweller, taking over abandoned prairie dog or ground squirrel burrows in open landscapes of grasslands and deserts across Nevada. Its long legs, bright yellow eyes, and spotted coat make it instantly recognizable.

These small owls are active during the day, especially in the early morning and late afternoon. They have a varied diet, including insects, small mammals, and birds. They’ve been known to store extra food in their burrows for later consumption.

Did you know? Burrowing Owls have a unique defense mechanism. When threatened, they mimic the sound of a rattlesnake to deter predators from their burrows.

Western Screech Owl

Western Screech Owl
  • Scientific Name: Megascops kennicottii
  • Size: Medium-small; height: 22-24 cm (8.5-9.5 in)
  • Weight: 140-240 grams (5-8.5 oz)
  • Wingspan: 55-61 cm (21.6-24 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

The Western Screech Owl is a master of disguise, seamlessly blending into the tree bark with its mottled brown and white feathers. This bird is often found in the wooded areas of Nevada, especially those near bodies of water, where they can find a diverse range of prey from insects and small mammals to reptiles and even other birds.

These nocturnal owls have a distinctive series of hoots that echo through the night, but despite their name, they don’t actually screech. The Western Screech Owl is non-migratory, staying in its territory all year round.

Did you know? When threatened, the Western Screech Owl elongates its body and compresses its feathers to mimic a branch or tree trunk, helping it hide in plain sight!

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl
  • Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
  • Size: Large; height: 46-63 cm (18-24.8 in)
  • Weight: 910-2500 grams (2-5.5 lbs)
  • Wingspan: 101-145 cm (39.7-57.1 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

The Great Horned Owl, known as the “tiger of the skies,” is one of the most widespread and adaptable owl species in North America, found in Nevada’s forests, deserts, mountains, and even in urban areas. Its large size, prominent ear tufts, and piercing yellow eyes make it easily recognizable.

They are known for their deep hooting calls, typically heard at dusk and dawn. As one of the earliest breeding birds, their hooting courtship duets can be heard in the depths of winter. Great Horned Owls are skilled hunters, with a diverse diet that includes rodents, rabbits, birds, and even other raptors.

Did you know? Great Horned Owls are one of the few predators that regularly eat skunks, thanks to their limited sense of smell!

Long-Eared Owl

Long-Eared Owl
  • Scientific Name: Asio otus
  • Size: Medium; height: 31-40 cm (12.2-15.7 in)
  • Weight: 200-435 grams (7-15.3 oz)
  • Wingspan: 86-100 cm (33.9-39.4 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

The Long-Eared Owl, with its long ear tufts and piercing yellow eyes, is a mysterious presence in the forests and woodlands of Nevada.

Often mistaken for the Great Horned Owl due to their similar appearance, Long-Eared Owls are notably slimmer and smaller. These secretive birds prefer dense foliage where they can roost during the day, coming out at night to hunt small mammals, especially rodents.

Their call, a deep ‘hoo-hoo-hoo’, is an iconic sound of the night. They are particularly social during winter, when they roost in communal groups, sometimes numbering into the dozens.

Did you know? The ‘ears’ of Long-Eared Owls aren’t ears at all, but rather tufts of feathers called plumicorns that they can raise or lower to communicate or camouflage!

Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared Owl
  • Scientific Name: Asio flammeus
  • Size: Medium; height: 34-43 cm (13.4-16.9 in)
  • Weight: 206-475 grams (7.3-16.7 oz)
  • Wingspan: 85-110 cm (33.5-43.3 in)
  • Time of the Year: Can be spotted year-round, with increased sightings during winter months

Short-Eared Owls are one of the most widely distributed owls in the world, found across all continents except Antarctica.

In Nevada, these birds are often seen in open habitats such as grasslands, marshes, and agricultural fields. With their buff-colored bodies and broad wings, Short-Eared Owls are easy to spot, especially because they are one of the few owl species that are active during the day.

Their diet primarily consists of small mammals, particularly voles. Interestingly, unlike most owls, Short-Eared Owls build their nests on the ground.

Did you know? The name ‘Short-Eared Owl’ comes from the small, hard-to-see ear tufts on their head, which are often concealed by feathers and are much smaller than those of their Long-Eared cousins!

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy Owl
  • Scientific Name: Glaucidium gnoma
  • Size: Small; height: 16-18 cm (6.3-7.1 in)
  • Weight: 60-71 grams (2.1-2.5 oz)
  • Wingspan: 36-39 cm (14.2-15.4 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

The Northern Pygmy-Owl, one of the smallest owls in North America, might be a bit challenging to spot due to its size, but it’s indeed a full-time resident of Nevada’s woodlands. Despite its diminutive stature, this pint-sized predator is known for its fierce hunting prowess, often preying on species larger than itself, including small birds and mammals.

One fascinating feature is their “false eyes” on the back of the head, which are black spots designed to confuse predators. Though active during the day, the Northern Pygmy-Owl is often more vocal at dawn and dusk.

Did you know? When a Northern Pygmy-Owl is near, songbirds often create a commotion to try to drive the owl away – making it easier for birdwatchers to locate these elusive owls!

Elf Owl

Elf Owl
  • Scientific Name: Micrathene whitneyi
  • Size: Small; height: 12.5-14.5 cm (4.9-5.7 in)
  • Weight: 40-55 grams (1.4-1.9 oz)
  • Wingspan: 27 cm (10.6 in)
  • Time of the Year: Spring and summer

The Elf Owl is the smallest owl in the world, and they are a rare sight in Nevada. They are mainly found in the southern parts of the state, particularly in desert regions with saguaro cacti and mesquite. As migratory birds, they usually arrive in Nevada in the spring for breeding.

Elf Owls have a greyish-brown body and a round head with big, yellow eyes. They feed primarily on insects and spiders, and their call is a high-pitched whinny or chuckle.

Did you know? Elf Owls often take over the abandoned cavities in cacti or trees made by woodpeckers, which they use as their nests!

Flammulated Owl

Flammulated Owl
  • Scientific Name: Psiloscops flammeolus
  • Size: Small; height: 15-17 cm (5.9-6.7 in)
  • Weight: 45-63 grams (1.6-2.2 oz)
  • Wingspan: 40-45 cm (15.7-17.7 in)
  • Time of the Year: Late spring to early fall

Named for its flame-like markings, the Flammulated Owl is a small owl species that resides in the mountainous regions of Nevada.

They have short, rounded wings, and their plumage has a mix of grey, brown, and rust colors that helps them blend into the bark of the pine and oak trees where they live.

Primarily insectivorous, they feed on a variety of insects and arthropods. Flammulated Owls are also known for their distinct low-pitched hoots that can often be heard during summer evenings.

Did you know? The Flammulated Owl undertakes a long migration every year, traveling all the way to Central America to spend the winter!

Where & How to Observe Owls in Nevada

Nevada’s diverse landscapes, ranging from arid deserts to alpine forests, offer a perfect habitat for a variety of owl species. You can potentially spot these nocturnal birds in a variety of settings throughout the state.

  1. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area: Home to the Great Horned Owl, this conservation area’s cliffs and canyons provide ample nesting sites.
  2. Spring Mountains National Recreation Area: This alpine region is home to several species, including the Northern Saw-Whet Owl and the Flammulated Owl.
  3. Lahontan State Recreation Area: The riparian areas around the lake and Carson River are a good place to look for the Short-Eared Owl.
  4. Great Basin National Park: This high-altitude park offers a mix of habitats where you might spot the Great Gray Owl.
  5. Desert National Wildlife Refuge: Look for the Burrowing Owl and the Elf Owl in this expansive desert habitat.
  6. Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest: This large forest is home to the Barred Owl and the Long-Eared Owl.

Remember, different species of owls prefer different habitats, from desert lands to deep forests and mountain ranges. So, it’s essential to research and understand the preferred habitat of the species you’re looking to spot.

Quick Tips For Owl Spotting

  • Time: Owls are primarily nocturnal, so the best time to spot them is at dawn or dusk.
  • Silence is key: Owls have acute hearing, so keep noise levels to a minimum.
  • Use a flashlight: A flashlight with a red filter can help you spot owls at night without disturbing them.
  • Listen for calls: Learn the different calls of the owls you want to spot. Often, you’ll hear an owl before you see it.
  • Look for signs: Look for ‘whitewash’ (owl droppings) on the ground and feathers on lower branches.
  • Keep a distance: Keep your distance to avoid disturbing these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.

Remember, patience is the key when you’re out looking for these incredible creatures of the night! Happy birding!

Owls in Other States

Leave a Comment