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All 13 Owl Species Found in Wyoming (With Pictures & Info)

Wyoming, with its diverse habitats that range from grasslands and forests to wetlands and mountains, is home to a wide array of wildlife species. Among the state’s inhabitants, owls hold a special place, intriguing residents and visitors with their distinctive calls, mysterious behaviors, and captivating gaze.

This guide will introduce you to the various species of owls found in the Equality State and offer insights into when and where you can observe them in their natural habitat.

Owl Species Found in Wyoming

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl
  • Scientific name: Bubo virginianus
  • Size: 46-63 cm (18-25 in)
  • Weight: 910-2500 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, known for its iconic ear tufts and large size, is one of the most widespread owls in North America and a common resident in Wyoming. They inhabit various ecosystems, including forests, deserts, and even city parks.

Great Horned Owls are known for their adaptability and varied diet. They are famous for their hunting skills and have been known to prey on a variety of creatures, including rodents, birds, and even larger prey like ospreys. Their deep hooting call is a distinctive sound in the Wyoming wilderness, particularly during winter breeding season.

These owls are monogamous and fiercely protective of their young. Nests are typically high in trees and can be quite large, as these owls often take over the abandoned nests of other birds rather than building their own.

Did you know? Great Horned Owls have a grip strength of about 500 psi, which is comparable to the bite strength of a large dog. This strong grip enables them to catch and kill prey larger than themselves!

Western Screech Owl

Western Screech Owl
  • Scientific name: Megascops kennicottii
  • Size: 19-25 cm (7.5-10 in)
  • Weight: 100-210 g (3.5-7.4 oz)
  • Wingspan: 55-61 cm (22-24 in)
  • Time of the year: Year-round

The Western Screech Owl is a smaller species with a stocky frame and tufted ears, commonly found in the wooded areas and scrublands of Wyoming.

Despite its name, the Western Screech Owl doesn’t screech often; instead, it produces a series of hoots and soft trills that echo through its woodland habitat.

Western Screech Owls are nocturnal hunters, feeding mainly on insects, spiders, small mammals, birds, and reptiles. They are cavity nesters and will often take up residence in tree holes, crevices, or even nest boxes provided by humans. Unlike many owl species, the Western Screech Owl tends to remain in or near its breeding territory year-round.

Did you know? Despite their small size, Western Screech Owls are brave predators. They are known to take on prey larger than themselves, including cottontail rabbits and mallard ducks!

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

Another member of the screech owl family, the Eastern Screech Owl, is also present in Wyoming. This species is characterized by its small size, ear tufts, and cryptic plumage that varies from gray to reddish-brown, providing excellent camouflage against tree bark.

Eastern Screech Owls are versatile predators, dining on a menu of insects, small mammals, other birds, and even fish and amphibians. They are cavity nesters and will use natural tree cavities, old woodpecker holes, or human-provided nest boxes. Their soft, mournful trills and whinnies can often be heard throughout the night.

Did you know? Eastern Screech Owls can have two color phases, red and gray. This color difference is not related to the owl’s age, sex, or region but is instead determined genetically.

Flammulated Owl

Flammulated Owl
  • Scientific name: Psiloscops flammeolus
  • Size: 15-16 cm (5.9-6.3 in)
  • Weight: 45-65 g (1.6-2.3 oz)
  • Wingspan: 36-42 cm (14-17 in)
  • Time of the year: Spring to late summer

Flammulated Owls are one of the smallest owl species in North America. They are distinct for their flame-like markings, hence their name. This owl species is migratory and can be spotted in Wyoming from spring to late summer.

Flammulated Owls are elusive and blend in perfectly with the bark of pine and oak trees thanks to their grey, rust, and white-colored feathers. These nocturnal creatures feed mainly on insects and use their excellent hearing to locate their prey.

Did you know? The Flammulated Owl’s voice is a soft, low-pitched hoot that sounds more like a toad than a typical owl call. This often makes them hard to locate in the wild.

Northern Pygmy Owl

Northern Pygmy Owl
  • Scientific name: Glaucidium gnoma
  • Size: 16-18 cm (6.3-7.1 in)
  • Weight: 60-71 g (2.1-2.5 oz)
  • Wingspan: 38 cm (15 in)
  • Time of the year: Year-round

The Northern Pygmy Owl, despite its small size, is a fierce hunter known to take prey up to three times its size. It’s a diurnal and crepuscular owl, active during the day and at twilight, making it a unique owl species.

These tiny owls have gray-brown plumage with white spots, a long tail, and yellow eyes. Their most distinct feature is the pair of black “false eyes” spots on the back of their head, meant to confuse predators.

In Wyoming, the Northern Pygmy Owl can be found in a variety of habitats, including open woods, edges of subalpine forests, and streamside groves.

Did you know? The Northern Pygmy Owl is one of the few owls that are not completely nocturnal. They can often be seen hunting in broad daylight!

Great Gray Owl

Great Grey Owl
  • Scientific name: Strix nebulosa
  • Size: 61-84 cm (24-33 in)
  • Weight: 790-1450 g (27.9-51.1 oz)
  • Wingspan: 142-153 cm (56-60 in)
  • Time of the year: Year-round

The Great Gray Owl is the tallest owl in America, although it’s not the heaviest. Its size is mostly due to its long tail and large head. Its round head lacks ear tufts, and its facial disc is gray with a white “bowtie” across the throat.

Great Gray Owls are residents in Wyoming. They can be found in dense coniferous forests often near wetlands. They are elusive birds, so spotting them can be quite a feat. Being primarily nocturnal, they hunt for small mammals, mainly rodents, from their low perch at night.

Did you know? The Great Gray Owl has the largest facial disc of any raptor. This large facial disc directs sound to their ears, allowing them to precisely locate prey under the snow or ground cover.

Barn Owl

Barn Owl
  • Scientific name: Tyto alba
  • Size: 33-40 cm (13-16 in)
  • Weight: 430-620 g (15.2-21.9 oz)
  • Wingspan: 80-95 cm (31-37 in)
  • Time of the year: Year-round

Barn Owls, known for their unique heart-shaped faces and lack of ear tufts, are one of the most widely distributed birds in the world, and Wyoming is no exception. These owls have a white face with a mix of light gray, yellow, and brown on the upper parts and white to yellowish-white on the underparts.

These birds are often seen in open habitats — fields, marshes, and grasslands — near cliffs, trees, or buildings. They are excellent rodent hunters and play an essential role in controlling rodent populations.

Did you know? Barn Owls don’t hoot like many other owl species. Instead, they emit a long, eerie screech — and also hiss like snakes when threatened.

Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Northern Saw-Whet Owl
  • Scientific name: Aegolius acadicus
  • Size: 17-22 cm (7-9 in)
  • Weight: 54-151 g (1.9-5.3 oz)
  • Wingspan: 42-56.3 cm (17-22 in)
  • Time of the year: Year-round

The Northern Saw-Whet Owl, named for its saw-sharpening-like call, is a small owl that packs a big personality. With its cat-like face, oversized head, and bright yellow eyes, it’s a favorite among bird watchers. This tiny owl has a rufous to brown body with a white face and underparts dotted with brown streaks.

In Wyoming, Northern Saw-Whet Owls are residents, found in the coniferous forests. They’re nocturnal, hunting mainly at night for small mammals and rodents. Despite their small size, they’re fierce hunters that take on prey similar to their size.

Did you know? Despite being widespread, Northern Saw-Whet Owls are rarely seen due to their nocturnal habits and excellent camouflage.

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl
  • Scientific name: Athene cunicularia
  • Size: 19-28 cm (7.5-11 in)
  • Weight: 125-240 g (4.4-8.5 oz)
  • Wingspan: 50.8-61 cm (20-24 in)
  • Time of the year: Spring to Autumn

The Burrowing Owl, unlike most other owls, is active during the day, particularly in the early morning and late afternoon. It is small and long-legged, with a round head that lacks ear tufts. Its overall color is brown, spotted with white or beige, and it has striking white eyebrows.

Burrowing Owls in Wyoming are summer residents, found in open, dry grasslands where they nest in abandoned prairie dog or other burrow-dwelling animals’ holes. They have a broad diet that includes insects, small mammals, and even birds and amphibians.

Did you know? The Burrowing Owl often lines the entrance to its burrow with dung from mammals. This unique behavior is thought to help attract insects, which the owls then prey on.

Long-Eared Owl

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

The Long-Eared Owl is a medium-sized owl known for its distinctively long ear tufts, which are positioned in the center of the forehead. Its body is brown with heavy streaking on the chest. These owls have piercing yellow eyes, set in a facial disk with orange-brown to tawny edges.

In Wyoming, they can be found year-round in the dense groves of deciduous or mixed forests, often near open fields. They roost communally in winter, sometimes in groups of a dozen or more. Their diet mainly includes small mammals, especially voles and mice.

Did you know? Long-Eared Owls are great mimics. When threatened, they stretch their body and ear tufts to look like a branch stump to avoid detection. They can also make their body slender and elongate the ear tufts to look like a branch, misleading potential predators.

Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared Owl
  • Scientific name: Asio flammeus
  • Size: 34-43 cm (13-17 in)
  • Weight: 206-475 g (7.3-16.8 oz)
  • Wingspan: 100-110 cm (39-43 in)
  • Time of the year: Year-round, most common in winter

Short-Eared Owls are one of the most widely distributed owls, found on all continents except Australia and Antarctica. These medium-sized owls have a rounded head with small ear tufts, and large, rounded wings. Their plumage is mottled brown and white, and they have distinctive yellow eyes.

They inhabit open areas such as grasslands and marshes in Wyoming, where they can be seen hunting mostly during the dawn and dusk, and sometimes in the daytime. Their diet consists of mainly small mammals, particularly voles.

Did you know? The Short-Eared Owl is one of the few owls that construct their nests on the ground. The female will scratch a shallow depression in the ground among tall grass or heather, where she will lay her eggs.

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl
  • Scientific name: Bubo scandiacus
  • Size: 52-71 cm (20-28 in)
  • Weight: 1.6-3 kg (3.5-6.6 lb)
  • Wingspan: 125-150 cm (49-59 in)
  • Time of the year: Winter

The Snowy Owl, often associated with the Arctic tundra, is one of the most recognizable owl species due to its striking appearance. It’s large and predominantly white with a rounded head, yellow eyes, and speckles of black or gray. Both males and females have these traits, although males tend to be whiter.

They visit Wyoming in winter, usually when their usual prey in the Arctic tundra is scarce. You’ll find them in open, treeless areas like marshes, fields, and dunes, where they have a great view of their surroundings. They feed mainly on small mammals and birds.

Did you know? The Snowy Owl is the official bird of the Canadian province of Quebec. It’s also one of the heaviest owl species in North America.

Boreal Owl

Boreal Owl
  • Scientific name: Aegolius funereus
  • Size: 22-27 cm (8.7-10.6 in)
  • Weight: 93-170 g (3.3-6 oz)
  • Wingspan: 55-62 cm (22-24 in)
  • Time of the year: Year-round

The Boreal Owl is a small and secretive bird of the northern forests. This owl has a large, round head without ear tufts, and its plumage is brown with white spots on the head and white streaks on the underparts. It has large, yellow eyes that peer out from a pale facial disk.

In Wyoming, they are found year-round in coniferous forests at high elevations. Despite their small size, they are powerful hunters, mainly feeding on small mammals, particularly voles.

Did you know? Unlike many other owl species, Boreal Owls are primarily cavity nesters, often using old woodpecker holes to nest in. They have also been known to use nest boxes when available.

Where & How to Observe Owls in Wyoming

The diverse landscapes of Wyoming, from its vast plains to mountain ranges, make it an excellent habitat for a variety of owl species. Owls can be found throughout the state in forests, grasslands, and wetlands.

  1. Yellowstone National Park: Known for its wildlife, Yellowstone is a great place to spot Great Horned Owls, Northern Saw-Whet Owls, and Great Gray Owls.
  2. Grand Teton National Park: This park offers excellent bird-watching opportunities, with Northern Pygmy Owls and Flammulated Owls among the species that can be found.
  3. Medicine Bow National Forest: Located in southeastern Wyoming, this forest is home to a variety of owl species, including the Eastern Screech Owl and Long-Eared Owl.
  4. Bighorn National Forest: This region’s diverse habitats support a variety of owl species, including the Short-Eared Owl and Boreal Owl.
  5. Thunder Basin National Grassland: This grassland is a haven for Burrowing Owls.

Owls are often most active during the dusk and dawn hours, making these the best times to go bird-watching. Additionally, many species are more vocal during their respective mating seasons, which can help in locating them.

Quick Tips For Owl Spotting

  • Be patient and quiet. Owls are elusive creatures, and it can take time to spot them.
  • Listen for calls. Owl calls are often the first clue to their presence.
  • Look for signs like pellets and whitewash. These can be indications of a nesting site nearby.
  • Use binoculars. Owls can be quite small and blend well into their surroundings.
  • Respect wildlife. Keep a safe distance and avoid disturbing the owls or their habitats.
  • Go with a guide. Local bird-watching groups or guided tours can help provide expertise and enhance your bird-watching experience.

Owls in Other States

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