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

Ohio is home to an incredible diversity of bird species, and among them, owls hold a special place. With their silent flight and mesmerizing eyes, these raptors of the night are intriguing creatures and are an integral part of Ohio’s rich ecosystem.

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the different owl species you can find in Ohio, as well as tips and tricks on how to spot them.

Owl Species Found in Ohio

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl
  • Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
  • Size: 45-63 cm (18-25 in) in length
  • Weight: 1-2.5 kg (2.2-5.5 lb)
  • Wingspan: 1.2-1.5 m (3.9-4.9 ft)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

The Great Horned Owl is one of the most common and widespread owls in North America, and Ohio is no exception. This large owl is easily identifiable by its prominent ear tufts that look like horns, hence its name.

Adaptable and versatile, the Great Horned Owl inhabits various landscapes from dense forests to city parks. Its diet is equally diverse, ranging from small mammals, birds, reptiles, to even other raptors.

These owls have a deep, resonating hoot that carries far in the stillness of the night. Their exceptional vision and pinpoint hearing, combined with a nearly silent flight, make them highly effective hunters in the dark.

Did you know? Great Horned Owls are the heaviest owl species in Ohio. Their powerful grip, aided by talons that can close with a force of 300 pounds per square inch, allows them to capture and carry off prey much heavier than themselves.

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

Eastern Screech Owls are one of the smallest owl species found in Ohio. But don’t be fooled by their size – these petite predators are fierce hunters that prey on insects, small birds, and mammals. They have a unique trilling call that distinguishes them from other owls.

These birds reside in both rural and urban settings, often nesting in tree cavities or in nest boxes provided by humans. With their incredible camouflage, Eastern Screech Owls are tough to spot during the day. At night, you might get a chance to spot them as they venture out to hunt.

Did you know? Eastern Screech Owls come in two distinct color morphs: gray and rufous (reddish-brown). This color variation helps them blend into their surroundings and avoid predators.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl
  • Scientific Name: Strix varia
  • Size: 40-63 cm (16-25 in) in length
  • Weight: 500-1,050 g (1.1-2.3 lb)
  • Wingspan: 96-125 cm (38-49 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

The Barred Owl, named for the bar-like markings on its chest, is a familiar sight in Ohio’s woodlands. This large owl prefers old forests with mature trees for nesting, especially near water bodies.

Known for their haunting hoot that sounds like “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?”, these owls are more vocal than most, especially on calm, clear nights. They primarily hunt small mammals, but won’t pass up the occasional bird, reptile, or amphibian.

Barred Owls have dark eyes – a trait that distinguishes them from most other owl species in North America, which have yellow eyes.

Did you know? Unlike most owls, Barred Owls are known to be quite active during the day, especially when raising their young. This makes them a treat for birdwatchers who are more likely to spot them compared to other, more nocturnal owls.

Barn Owl

Barn Owl
  • Scientific Name: Tyto alba
  • Size: 32-40 cm (13-16 in) in length
  • Weight: 224-710 g (0.49-1.56 lb)
  • Wingspan: 107-110 cm (42-43 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

The Barn Owl, with its distinctive heart-shaped face and pale coloration, is a striking sight in the Ohio skies. Preferring open habitats like fields and meadows, these owls have been known to nest in barns, hence their name, as well as in silos and church steeples.

Barn Owls have an eerie, rasping scream that sets them apart from the ‘hoot’ of other owl species. They’re efficient hunters that glide silently above the ground in search of small mammals, particularly voles, their preferred prey.

Did you know? The Barn Owl is one of the most widespread species of owl in the world, found on every continent except Antarctica!

Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Northern Saw-Whet Owl
  • Scientific Name: Aegolius acadicus
  • Size: 17-22 cm (7-8.7 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

Northern Saw-Whet Owls are small owls found in Ohio’s forested regions. Despite their size, they are fierce hunters, known for preying on small mammals like mice and voles. They’re also adept at catching small birds and large insects.

Their name comes from their distinctive call, which some say sounds like a saw being sharpened on a ‘whetting’ stone. Northern Saw-Whet Owls are quite elusive and are more often heard than seen. Night is the best time to spot these owls, when their rhythmic tooting calls echo through the forests.

Did you know? When threatened, a Northern Saw-Whet Owl will adopt a “tall, slender” posture, closing its eyes to thin slits to appear like a branch stub, thus thwarting detection.

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: 86-100 cm (34-39 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

The Long-Eared Owl is an elusive species that primarily inhabits dense forests in Ohio. Its distinguishing feature, long tufts of feathers atop its head, resembles ears, giving this owl its name. However, these “ears” are not used for hearing but rather for communication and camouflage.

These owls are nocturnal predators, primarily feeding on small mammals, especially rodents. Their calls, a deep, repeated “whoop”, can carry over long distances in the quiet forest night.

Did you know? The Long-Eared Owl has excellent hearing, facilitated by facial discs that direct sound waves to their ears, which are asymmetrically placed to help them locate prey in the dark!

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: Winter months

Short-Eared Owls are open-country hunters, often seen in Ohio during the winter months. Their preferred habitats include marshes, grasslands, and tundras.

They’re known for their impressive aerial displays during courtship and their aggressive nature when defending their nests.

Their diet primarily consists of small mammals, especially voles, but they’re also known to prey on birds. These owls have a distinctive floppy flight, resembling a giant moth.

Did you know? Unlike most owls, the Short-Eared Owl can often be seen hunting during daylight hours, especially during the winter!

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl
  • Scientific Name: Bubo scandiacus
  • Size: 53-65 cm (20.9-25.6 in) in length
  • Weight: 1.6-3 kg (3.5-6.6 lb)
  • Wingspan: 125-150 cm (49.2-59.1 in)
  • Time of the Year: Winter months

Snowy Owls, with their dazzling white plumage, are rare winter visitors to Ohio. These owls breed in the Arctic tundra but migrate south during particularly harsh winters, a phenomenon known as an ‘irruption’.

These owls are diurnal, meaning they hunt both day and night, feasting primarily on lemmings and other small mammals. They’re known for their endurance and can go without food for several days.

Did you know? Snowy Owls are among the heaviest owl species in North America. Unlike most owls, male Snowy Owls get whiter as they age while females retain some dark spots.

Where & How to Observe Owls in Ohio

Ohio provides a variety of environments for owls, from dense forests to open fields, meaning there’s always an opportunity for owl spotting.

  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park is home to several owl species, including the Barred Owl and Great Horned Owl. Visit during the evening or early morning to hear their distinct calls.
  • In the southern part of the state, the Wayne National Forest provides an excellent habitat for the Eastern Screech Owl and Barn Owl.
  • Magee Marsh Wildlife Area is another hot spot. Especially during the winter months, the Short-Eared Owl can be seen hunting over the marshlands at dusk.
  • Snowy Owls, although rare, have been spotted in open fields across the state during irruption years. One such place is Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge.

Quick Tips For Owl Spotting

  • Know the species: Learn about the species present in the area you plan to visit. Each owl has its unique habits and preferred habitats.
  • Time it right: Owls are mostly nocturnal, so your best chance of spotting them is at dusk or dawn. However, some species, like the Short-Eared Owl, are also active during the day.
  • Listen for calls: Owls are vocal, especially during mating season. Learn the distinct calls of different species to help locate them.
  • Look for signs: Apart from looking up in the trees, watch for pellets or whitewash (owl droppings) on the ground, which can indicate an owl’s presence.
  • Respect the wildlife: Keep a safe distance, and never disturb an owl, especially those nesting or rearing their young. Use binoculars or a good camera lens for a closer look.

With these tips and a bit of patience, you’ll have a good chance of spotting these magnificent birds in their natural habitat. Happy owl spotting in Ohio!

Owls in Other States

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