Skip to content Skip to footer

All 14 Owl Species Found in Oregon (With Pictures & Info)

Oregon, renowned for its diverse landscapes, hosts a multitude of wildlife species, making it a birder’s paradise. Among its feathered inhabitants, owls hold a special place.

Silent hunters of the night, these mysterious creatures intrigue both bird enthusiasts and the general public with their distinct calls, unique hunting techniques, and captivating presence.

This guide uncovers the various owl species found in Oregon, offering insight into their characteristics, behaviors, and where to spot them.

Owl Species Found in Oregon

Boreal Owl

Boreal Owl
  • Scientific name: Aegolius funereus
  • Size: 22–27 cm (8.7–10.6 in)
  • Weight: 93–170 g (3.3–6.0 oz)
  • Wingspan: 50–62 cm (19.7–24.4 in)
  • Time of the year: Year-round

The Boreal Owl, or Tengmalm’s Owl, is a small yet fierce owl species found in Oregon. Its haunting call is often associated with the wild and remote boreal forests where it typically resides.

The bird is cloaked in rich brown feathers, adorned with white spots, which provide excellent camouflage among the forest’s dense tree trunks. Its white facial disc, rimmed with black, houses large yellow eyes that gleam in the darkness, intimidating its prey. The Boreal Owl is generally nocturnal, most active at dusk and dawn.

Diet-wise, this owl primarily feasts on small mammals, such as voles and mice. During the breeding season, the Boreal Owl lays its eggs in natural tree cavities or old woodpecker holes, often returning to the same site year after year.

Did you know? The Boreal Owl was known for centuries as Tengmalm’s Owl after Swedish naturalist Peter Gustaf Tengmalm. It was only in the 19th century that it got its common name, the Boreal Owl, which refers to the Latin word boreas, meaning northern, and reflects its presence in northern or boreal forests.

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 compact species, small in stature but fierce in spirit. Its endearing face, complete with oversized round eyes and a catlike appearance, belie its formidable predatory abilities. Its name originates from the distinct “saw-whetting” call, reminiscent of a saw being sharpened on a whetting stone.

These owls inhabit dense forests, where their cryptic plumage blends in seamlessly with the tree bark. They tend to be most active at dusk and dawn, when their high-pitched calls echo through the forest. With a diet mainly consisting of small mammals, particularly mice and voles, the Northern Saw-Whet Owl is a proficient hunter despite its petite size.

Did you know? Despite their small size and innocent appearance, Northern Saw-Whet Owls are voracious predators. They often decapitate their prey before consuming them and may even save leftovers in a cache for later meals!

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl
  • Scientific Name: Athene cunicularia
  • Size: 19-28 cm (7.5-11 in)
  • Weight: 140-240 g (4.9-8.5 oz)
  • Wingspan: 50.8-61 cm (20-24 in)
  • Time of the year: Year-round

A bird of open landscapes, the Burrowing Owl is aptly named for its unusual habit of living in underground burrows, often ones abandoned by prairie dogs or ground squirrels. Unlike most owls, the Burrowing Owl is diurnal, preferring to hunt during the day, although it may also be active at dawn and dusk.

The Burrowing Owl is a small but long-legged owl found in grasslands, rangelands, agricultural areas, deserts, or any other open dry area with low vegetation.

They are known for their bright yellow eyes and bold white eyebrows, giving them a perpetual surprised look. The primary diet of Burrowing Owls consists of insects and rodents, which they are exceptionally adept at catching even in daylight.

Did you know? When threatened, Burrowing Owls make a hissing sound similar to the rattle of a rattlesnake to scare away potential predators from their burrows! This fascinating mimicry strategy helps them keep predators at bay.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl
  • Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
  • Size: 46-63 cm (18.1-24.8 in)
  • Weight: 910-2,500 g (32.1-88.2 oz)
  • Wingspan: 101-145 cm (39.8-57.1 in)
  • Time of the year: Year-round

The Great Horned Owl, sometimes called the “tiger of the woods,” is one of the most widespread and commonly recognized owl species in North America.

Recognizable by its large size, ear tufts, and deep hooting voice, the Great Horned Owl is a symbol of strength and prowess. Its large yellow eyes are set in a face framed by brown and white feathers, giving the owl a stern, piercing gaze.

Great Horned Owls are not picky about their habitats, making their homes anywhere from the Arctic to South America, in environments as diverse as deserts, wetlands, forests, grasslands, backyards, and cities.

They have a broad diet that ranges from rabbits, hares, mice, and voles, to birds, amphibians, and even other owls.

Did you know? Great Horned Owls have extremely strong talons, and their crushing grip is estimated to be around 300 pounds per square inch — strong enough to break the bones of their prey!

Barn Owl

Barn Owl
  • Scientific Name: Tyto alba
  • Size: 32-40 cm (12.6-15.7 in)
  • Weight: 224-710 g (7.9-25 oz)
  • Wingspan: 107-110 cm (42.1-43.3 in)
  • Time of the year: Year-round

The Barn Owl is an iconic species with a heart-shaped face and ghostly pale coloration that stands in stark contrast to the darkness of the night. It is one of the most widespread of all birds, being found almost worldwide.

Barn Owls prefer open habitats such as fields, farmlands, and marshes where they can use their acute sense of hearing to locate small mammals in the vegetation.

They hunt mostly at night, sweeping low over the landscape with silent flight, thanks to the specialized feathers that dampen sound. Their diet primarily consists of small mammals, predominantly rodents.

Did you know? The Barn Owl doesn’t hoot like most owl species. Instead, it emits a high-pitched screech which can be quite unsettling, earning it nicknames like “ghost owl” and “death owl.”

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl
  • Scientific Name: Bubo scandiacus
  • Size: 52-71 cm (20.5-28 in)
  • Weight: 1,600-2,700 g (56.4-95.2 oz)
  • Wingspan: 125-150 cm (49.2-59.1 in)
  • Time of the Year: Winter

A bird of Arctic tundra regions, the Snowy Owl is an occasional winter visitor to Oregon, typically seen during irruption years. With their distinctive white plumage and large yellow eyes, they are a sight to behold against the backdrop of a snow-covered landscape.

Snowy Owls are diurnal, active during the day, unlike most other owl species. They primarily feed on lemmings and other small mammals but are also known to take birds, depending on food availability. They can sit motionless for hours, waiting to swoop down on their prey.

Did you know? The Snowy Owl gained fame as the pet owl of Harry Potter, the famous fictional wizard, though in real life, these birds are not suited to being pets!

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: 90-100 cm (35.4-39.4 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

The Long-Eared Owl, named for its prominent ear tufts, is a medium-sized owl found in a variety of habitats. They are a rather slender birds with long, rounded wings and a long tail, which give it a hawk-like appearance in flight.

Long-Eared Owls are nocturnal and highly secretive, making them a rare sight for many bird watchers. They tend to roost in dense foliage during the day and become active at dusk. Their diet mainly consists of small mammals, but they will also take birds when available.

Did you know? Despite their name, the “ears” of the Long-Eared Owl are not ears at all but feather tufts that serve to break up the bird’s outline when roosting, helping them blend in with their surroundings.

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

Short-Eared Owls, known for their relatively short ear tufts, are a common sight in Oregon’s open grasslands, marshes, and agricultural fields. These owls have a wide global distribution, and their population in Oregon remains resident throughout the year.

These owls are most active during dusk and dawn, often seen flying low over open areas in search of small mammals, their primary food source. They have a distinctive flight style that consists of buoyant, erratic wingbeats interspersed with glides, making them easily recognizable in flight.

Did you know? Short-Eared Owls are one of the most widely distributed owls globally, found on every continent except Antarctica!

Barred Owl

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

The Barred Owl, a large grey-brown owl, is noted for its hooting call and dark, soulful eyes. Its name comes from the horizontal ‘bar’ markings on its chest.

These owls are residents in the dense forests across much of the eastern United States, and they have expanded their range to the Pacific Northwest, including Oregon, over the past century.

Barred Owls are mostly nocturnal, spending the day roosting in trees. They feed on a wide variety of prey, including small mammals, birds, amphibians, and invertebrates.

Did you know? The Barred Owl’s hooting call, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” is a classic sound of old forests and treed swamps.

Flammulated Owl

Flammulated Owl
  • Scientific Name: Psiloscops flammeolus
  • Size: 15-17 cm (5.9-6.7 in)
  • Weight: 45-63 g (1.6-2.2 oz)
  • Wingspan: 36-42 cm (14.2-16.5 in)
  • Time of the Year: Spring to late Summer

One of the smallest owl species in North America, the Flammulated Owl, has made the mixed coniferous woodlands of Oregon its home.

This diminutive owl is distinguished by its dark eyes, short ear tufts, and complex grey, rust, and brown coloration, which provides excellent camouflage against tree bark.

Primarily insectivorous, Flammulated Owls feed on a variety of insects, including beetles, moths, and crickets. They are migratory birds and can be spotted in Oregon from late Spring to early Fall.

Did you know? The Flammulated Owl’s name is derived from the flame-like markings on its face and body!

Northern Pygmy Owl

Northern Pygmy Owl
  • Scientific Name: Glaucidium gnoma
  • Size: 15-17 cm (5.9-6.7 in)
  • Weight: 62-73 g (2.2-2.6 oz)
  • Wingspan: 38 cm (15 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

Northern Pygmy Owls are a treat to behold in the evergreen forests of Oregon. Despite their small size, these owls are known for their fierce hunting skills and large, yellow, hypnotic eyes.

Northern Pygmy Owls have predominantly grey or brown plumage, with notable white spots on their heads and wings.

They are diurnal, active during the day, and feed on small mammals, birds, and insects. Unlike many owl species, Northern Pygmy Owls are quite active during the day, especially in the early morning and late afternoon.

Did you know? Northern Pygmy Owls have “false eyes” on the back of their heads, formed by a pattern of dark feathers. This helps them fend off potential predators!

Northern Spotted Owl

Northern Spotted Owl
  • Scientific Name: Strix occidentalis caurina
  • Size: 43-50 cm (16.9-19.7 in)
  • Weight: 600-750 g (1.3-1.65 lbs)
  • Wingspan: 114-124 cm (44.9-48.8 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

The Northern Spotted Owl is one of the largest and most magnificent owls found in Oregon. They are found primarily in old-growth forests where they thrive in dense canopy cover.

Their dark brown bodies, spotted with white, give them their name and provide perfect camouflage against the bark of the trees. Their dark eyes and round facial disks set them apart from other owl species in the region.

Regrettably, the Northern Spotted Owl’s population is under threat due to habitat loss from logging and competition with Barred Owls. Efforts are ongoing to conserve their habitats and increase their population.

Did you know? Northern Spotted Owls do not build their own nests but instead use cavities in trees, old nests of other birds, or naturally occurring platforms in trees.

Great Gray Owl

Great Grey Owl
  • Scientific Name: Strix nebulosa
  • Size: 61-84 cm (24-33 in)
  • Weight: 790-1450 g (1.74-3.2 lbs)
  • Wingspan: 142 cm (55.9 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

One of the tallest owls in America, the Great Gray Owl, is indeed a sight to behold in Oregon’s forests. Their large, rounded heads, with a unique facial disk and bright yellow eyes, make them distinctive.

Despite their large size, they weigh less than many other large owls due to their fluffy plumage, long tails, and relatively light bodies.

Great Gray Owls prefer forested areas and are known to hunt at night and at dusk and dawn. They feed primarily on small mammals, especially voles.

Did you know? Great Gray Owls have the largest facial disc of any raptor, which helps them locate prey, even under a thick layer of snow or in a tunnel!

Western Screech Owl

Western Screech Owl
  • Scientific Name: Megascops kennicottii
  • Size: 22-24 cm (8.7-9.4 in)
  • Weight: 140-240 g (4.9-8.5 oz)
  • Wingspan: 55-61 cm (21.6-24 in)
  • Time of the Year: Year-round

Western Screech Owls are small, nocturnal birds that inhabit Oregon’s woodlands and forests. They are grayish in color with a pattern of darker streaks and spots, have large round heads with ear tufts, and bright yellow eyes.

These owls have a wide range of vocalizations, including barks, hoots, and, of course, screeches. They are opportunistic hunters and feed on a variety of prey, including small mammals, insects, and other small birds.

Did you know? Despite their name, Western Screech Owls do not actually screech often. Their most common call is a series of soft, melodious hoots!

Where & How to Observe Owls in Oregon

Oregon’s diverse landscape, which includes forests, grasslands, and coastal areas, offers excellent opportunities for owl spotting. Each of these areas has a unique assemblage of owl species that thrive in different habitats.

  1. Mt. Hood National Forest: Here you can spot Northern Spotted Owls, Great Gray Owls, and Northern Saw-whet Owls among others. Be sure to visit during dawn or dusk for the best chances.
  2. Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest: Known for its old-growth forests, this area is prime habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl.
  3. Crater Lake National Park: While enjoying the stunning blue waters of the lake, keep your eyes open for Great Horned Owls and Northern Pygmy-Owls.
  4. Columbia River Gorge: Along the river, you can often find Barn Owls and Western Screech Owls.
  5. Malheur National Wildlife Refuge: This refuge is a great place to see Burrowing Owls, especially in the warmer months.

The forests of Oregon are ideal for many owl species, while the grasslands and agricultural areas provide excellent habitats for the Barn Owl and the Burrowing Owl. Western Screech Owls often inhabit the riparian woodlands along the state’s rivers.

Quick Tips For Owl Spotting

  1. Time of Day: Owls are primarily nocturnal, so the best time to spot them is at dusk or dawn.
  2. Listen: Owls are often heard before they are seen. Learn the calls of different owls to help identify them.
  3. Look Up: Owls often roost high in trees during the day. Look for signs like pellets or whitewash below trees.
  4. Be Patient: Finding owls requires patience. Take your time and observe your surroundings carefully.
  5. Binoculars: A good pair of binoculars is an essential tool for any birdwatcher.
  6. Leave No Trace: While searching for owls, respect nature and wildlife by following Leave No Trace principles.
  7. Join a Birdwatching Group: Birdwatching groups or guided tours can provide expert knowledge and increase your chances of spotting owls.

Happy owl-spotting in Oregon!

Owls in Other States

Leave a Comment