Owls of Ohio

THE OWLS OF OHIO: A Visual Exploration

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Owls live in a variety of settings in Ohio, a state well-known for its various landscapes and abundant biodiversity. They can be found in suburban homes or dense forests, and their quiet flight, perceptive eyes, and eerie hoots have a way of capturing people’s attention.

Ohio is home to eight different species of owls, ranging in size from the tiny Eastern Screech-Owls to the magnificent Great Horned Owls. These species include the Snowy Owl, Barn Owl, Barred Owl, Eastern Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Long-eared Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, and Short-eared Owl.

  1. Ohio’s primary owl population consists of eight species, but occasional sightings of the Boreal Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, and Great Gray Owl occur due to the state’s unique habitat.
  2. The intriguing traits and behaviors of Ohio’s owls, including their enigmatic appearance and specialized adaptations, such as noise-reducing feather patterns, fascinate observers.

Morphology Of Owls


  • Because of their secret ear holes, owls have extraordinary hearing.
  • Asymmetrical apertures help certain owl species better triangulate sounds.
  • Owls can distinguish between left and right sounds in 30 millionths of a second, according to studies.
  • Owls can capture prey even when it’s concealed behind snow thanks to their unique auditory sense.


  • To lessen noise when flying, owls have unique feathers with comb-like extensions along the edges.
  • Thanks to these adaptations, owls may discreetly ambush their prey.


  • Owls can hunt in low light thanks to their huge eyes’ ability to gather and process light efficiently.
  • Their eyes are oriented forward, which allows them to see depth with both eyes.
  • Thanks to their flexible necks, owls can turn their heads 270 degrees, enabling them to view behind them without shifting their bodies.


  • Strong talons with a mechanical locking mechanism are characteristic of owls.
  • Legs and feet with full feathers provide protection from the cold and help detect prey.
  • Their hooked bills strike with tremendous vigor, taking down smaller prey rapidly.


  • While tearing larger prey into manageable pieces, owls devour smaller prey whole.
  • Pellets made of indigestible elements are regurgitated by owls several hours after a meal.
  • To find roosting owls and learn more about their nutrition, researchers examine owl pellets.


  • Owls have unique cries, such as hoots, quavering whistles, and monotone piping, that are exclusive to their species.
  • Male cries tend to be lower pitched than female calls, which helps to distinguish between the sexes.
  • Owls also communicate through non-verbal means, such as clapping their wings and snapping their bills.
Owls of Ohio birdzpedia.com


Superstitions About Owls
Because of their uncanny vocalizations and unknown nocturnal homes, owls have long been the focus of superstitions. They have been interpreted as symbols of fortune, misfortune, approaching disaster, intelligence, folly, malevolence, witchcraft, and even the weather. There are many strange instances of owl mythology throughout the world.
Ancient Greece:
Particularly the Goddess of Wisdom, Athene, held owls in high regard. She is honored by the name Athene, a genus of owls.
Ancient Rome:
Owls lost popularity after being linked to witches who could change their shape.
Some others thought it was lucky to see an owl. It was believed that pinning a barn owl to the barn door would prevent lightning strikes.
Ireland and Scotland:
Any owl that entered a house in Ireland was thought to take away its good fortune. Seeing an owl during the day was thought to be unfortunate in Scotland.
Owls were considered a good guide by the people of Greenland.
Harry Potter Influence:
Owls became well-known because to the Harry Potter books, where they were portrayed as winged messengers and were generally positive.


Owls of Ohio birdzpedia.com
Scientific nameMegascops asio
Life span8 to 10 years
Size16 to 25 cm (6.5 to 10 in)
Weight121 to 244 g (4.25 to 8.5 oz)
Wingspan46 to 61 cm (18 to 24 in)

The size of an Eastern screech-owl is similar to that of an American robin (Turdus migratorius), but it weighs twice as much and has noticeable ear tufts. Eastern screech-owls come in two main color varieties: red and gray. The gray morph is more prevalent, especially in the state’s northern regions.

In southern Ohio, red morphs can be locally prevalent and appear in similar numbers to gray morphs. Between 75 and 90 percent of screech-owls in northwest Ohio belong to the gray morph. A considerably infrequent intermediate brown morph also exists.

Distribution and Habitat:

  • The habitats that the Eastern screech-owl inhabits are diverse and include open woodlots next to streams, urban and suburban environments, and woodlands with solitary giant shade trees.
  • In locations with sporadic huge trees and wide woodlots dotted with meadows and pastures, it’s common to hear them calling at the same time.

Vocalizations of Eastern Screech-Owls:

  • Rather than screeching, eastern screech-owls make quavering whistle sounds.
  • Males speak with a lower voice and mostly employ a descending or monotonous trill to communicate.
  • They occasionally let out soft hoots, barks, or noises similar to screeching.

Interesting Facts:

  • Being the only owl in eastern North America to have two unique color morphs—gray and red—the eastern screech-owl is also the most frequent owl in Ohio.
  • Of all the owls in North America, they have the broadest diet, consuming anything from earthworms to songbirds.

Habits and Nesting:

  • Obedient cavity-nesters, screech owls like natural cavities or abandoned woodpecker nests.
  • Screech owls can be drawn to nest boxes if positioned.
  • Usually beginning in the middle of March, clutch sizes vary from two to six eggs.
  • After hatching, young screech owls depart the nest after roughly four weeks.

Key Identifications:

  • little owl with mottled brown or gray plumage and ear tufts.
  • found in a range of forested and park-like environments east of the Rocky Mountains.
  • nests in nest boxes and tree cavities.
  • hunts during night, diving to the ground to capture a variety of small prey.


Owls of Ohio birdzpedia.com
Scientific nameStrix varia
Life span8 years
Size40 to 63 cm (15 to 25 in)
Weight610 to 1,150 g (1.34 to 2.54 lb)
Wingspan96 to 125 cm (38 to 49 in)

Large, about identical in size to the great horned owl but weighing roughly half as much, are barred owls. They have big facial discs but no ear tufts. They are primarily brown on top with white mottling, and below they are distinctly streaked with brown vertical lines. Compared to males, females are somewhat bigger.

Distribution and Habitat:

  • Mature forests are preferred by barred owls, especially marshy areas and ravines with mature American beeches because they have hollowed-out chambers for nesting. Although they can cope with some habitat fragmentation, they thrive in bigger, continuous woodland blocks.

Vocalization of Barred Owls:

  • quite talkative, frequently making long calls.
  • The standard greeting is “Who Cooks For You, Who Cooks For You All.”
  • Perform duets to this tune.
  • A two-note “Hoo-aww” call is used as a contact call by both sexes.
  • A high-pitched, rising squeal is the beseeching cry of fledglings seeking food.

Interesting Facts:

  • The oldest wild barred owl ever recorded was almost eighteen years old.
  • Calls are easily imitated and react well to imitations.

Habits and Nesting:

  • Fly with grace and lightness, and navigate through deep canopies of forest with ease.
  • Hunt while perched and watch for your prey to show up.
  • mostly eat small mammals, such as voles and mice.
  • Nest in abandoned stick nests made by other birds or tree cavities, which are frequently formed by broken limbs.
  • Place two or three egg clutches in early to mid-March.
  • The young hatch in April after an approximate 30-day incubation period.
  • After four or five weeks, the young birds leave the nest but stay nearby.
  • not able to fly very well for almost three months after hatching.
  • The entire molt into adult plumage takes six months.


Owls of Ohio birdzpedia.com
Scientific nameBubo virginianus
Life span25 – 50 years
Size43 to 64 cm (17 to 25 in)
Weight1200 to 1600 g (2.64 to 3.52 lbs)
Wingspan91 to 153 cm (3ft 0in to 5ft 0in)

The Great Horned Owl is characterized by its dark gray hooked beak, huge golden eyes outlined in black, grayish to reddish-brown cheeks, and unique ear tufts. To help with concealment, their wings and backs are speckled in shades of brown, black, white, or gray. Smaller ear tufts and fluffy feathers characterize juveniles.

  • Species and Habitat:
    • The Great Horned Owl, or Bubo virginianus, is a common bird in North America.
    • It may be found in many different types of habitats, such as grasslands, woods, deserts, and cities.
    • They make use of nesting locations that larger birds, including eagles and hawks, have abandoned.
  • Diet and Hunting:
    • They eat fish, carrion, birds, insects, and small rodents.
    • They may hunt from the ground or by wading through water.
    • They are known to hunt from perches, swooping down to seize prey with their powerful talons..
  • Vocalizations:
    • Female Great Horned Owls have a higher pitch on their characteristic five-note hoot.
    • They also produce a variety of coos, hisses, whistles, and shrieks.
  • Breeding and Nesting:
    • Males court females by aerial displays and ritualistic stomping, and breeding can begin as early as January.
    • They show flexibility in their nest-building decisions by repurposing abandoned nests for reproduction.
  • Conservation Status:
    • Great Horned Owls are not in danger right now, but human activities including shooting, trapping, colliding, and poisoning from rodenticides have caused a population drop in these birds.
    • Farmers and hunters have historically persecuted them, and unlawful poaching is still a threat to them now.
  • Key Identifications:
    • The Great Horned Owl is a huge, muscular owl with fine barring on its underparts and ear tufts.
    • They hunt at night by perching on perches or flying over wide areas.
    • They nest in the abandoned stick nests of other large birds or on ledges.


Owls of Ohio birdzpedia.com
Scientific nameAsio otus
Life span10 to 27 years
Size31 to 40 cm (12 to 16 in)
Weight160 to 435 g (5.6 to 15.3 oz)
Wingspan86 to 102 cm (2ft 10in to 3ft 4in)

Because of its huge ear tufts, some people mistake the long-eared owl for the great horned owl, however the long-eared is a smaller, considerably lankier bird. Occurs rarely in Ohio, long-eared owls are usually observed in the winter or during migration. They like to hunt for small mammals over broad areas, even if they roost among dense cover.

Habitat and Global Presence

  • The northern parts of the planet and the deep forests of Ohio are home to long-eared owls.
  • Their amazing camouflage makes them almost invisible in the forest, blending in well with pine trees.

Breeding Season

  • Males sing and flail their wings to demonstrate their flying ability during breeding season, which begins in March.

Diet and Hunting

  • Mice, voles, and shrews are among the small mammals that Long-eared Owls hunt on.
  • They become accustomed to shortage by periodically eating reptiles or amphibians and hunt slowly, gliding or perching near the ground.

Conservation Status and Resilience

  • In spite of challenges like habitat loss and collisions with vehicles, Long-eared Owls are listed as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List.
  • Their eerie cries can be heard up to a mile away, signifying their constant presence.

Physical Characteristics

  • Medium-sized and slender, Long-eared Owls are distinguished by their noticeable ear tufts, a startled expression on their face disk, and feathers that resemble mustaches.
  • Their distinctive cross-barred underparts contrast with their mottled gray, brown, and white upperparts.

Migration and Habitat

  • Breeding in Canada and the northern US states, long-eared owls migrate to the remainder of the US and Mexico in the winter.
  • They live in wide grasslands for hunting and wooded places with lots of trees for roosting.

Prey and Hunting Techniques

  • They eat mostly small mammals, and they hover near the ground to detect movements of their prey.
  • During breeding season, they make steady, slow-moving ‘whoo’ noises.

Nesting Behavior

  • Long-eared Owls use tree cavities or hollows to repurpose abandoned hawk or crow nests.
  • Up to 10 eggs can be laid by females, who then need four weeks to incubate them before the chicks begin to branch out.
  • Defying conventional owl nesting patterns, females search for nesting locations in hawk nests or tree trunks.

Key Identifications

  • The medium-sized, slender Long-eared Owl has orange face characteristics, long wings with a brown patch near the tips, and long ear tufts.
  • They glide across open areas at night to hunt, and they build their nests in abandoned hawk, magpie, and crow nests.


Owls of Ohio birdzpedia.com
Scientific nameTyto furcata
Length12.6 – 15.8 in (32 – 40 cm)
Weight14.1 – 24.7 oz (400 – 700 g)
Wingspan39.4 – 49.2 in (100 – 125 cm)

The barred owl and the barn owl are very different nocturnal species found in northern Ohio. It can be identified by its spectral white look and brown wings. It makes a spooky cry and typically takes up residence in ancient structures. Regretfully, they are becoming less common in places like Ohio.

Distribution and Migration

  • Despite being uncommon in Ohio, barn owls live there year-round and do not migrate.
  • With the exception of Antarctica and the Sahara Desert, all continents are home to multiple subspecies of these birds, making them the most ubiquitous land birds in the world.

Distinctive Appearance

  • Barn owls are easily identified by their dark eyes and white faces fashioned like hearts.
  • Their upperparts are a mixture of gray, brown, and red, with patches changing in color on their white chests, bellies, and underwings.

Habitat and Roosting

  • Found in a variety of environments, including as farmlands, open spaces, suburban areas, and urban areas.
  • They get their name because they spend the day roosting in hollow logs, tree cavities, or barns.

Hunting Techniques and Prey

  • Because of their extraordinary sense of hearing, Barn Owls mostly hunt by sound, which allows them to capture prey in total darkness.
  • Small mammals including rats, voles, bats, rabbits, and lemmings make up the majority of their food, along with insects, lizards, and birds.

Reproductive Behavior

  • They can deposit up to eighteen eggs over the course of several broods in their nests, which are usually found in tree cavities, caves, or abandoned structures.
  • During the roughly month-long incubation period, the nest is built from pellets that have been regurgitated and arranged into a cup with the help of their feet.

Interesting Facts

  • Because these patches have been demonstrated to eliminate parasites, females with more spots on their chests receive greater assistance from males while building nests.

Key Identifications:

  • Big, pale owl with a face shaped like a heart.
  • At night, it flutters and glides across fields and other open spaces.
  • nests in tree clefts, adjacent boxes, and cracks in church steeples and other buildings.
  • Rats and other tiny animals are its prey.


Owls of Ohio birdzpedia.com
Scientific nameAegolius acadicus
Length7.1 – 8.3 in (18 – 21 cm)
Weight2.3 – 5.3 oz (65 – 151 g)
Wingspan16.5 – 18.9 in (42 – 48 cm)

Saw-whet in the North Small and elusive, owls are common in northern Ohio during the fall and winter, frequently sleeping in thickets close to tree trunks. They resemble screech owls in size, are primarily nocturnal, and are difficult to locate.

Migration and Habitat

  • Saw-whet in the North In Ohio, owls are usually seen during migration, and some spend the winter in certain places.
  • They migrate to lower locations occasionally in the winter, although they live year-round in Canada, the northern US states, and the western US states.

Physical Characteristics

  • Northern Saw-whet Owls are among the tiniest owls found in North America; they resemble robins in size.
  • Their huge round heads with fine white streaks, brilliant yellow eyes, and thick white feathers forming a “Y” between the eyes are all characteristic of their little brown bodies.

Distribution and Hunting Behavior

  • They are hidden beneath dense branches and foliage near open spaces and water sources, where they can be found in deep coniferous forests.
  • They are nocturnal hunters who mostly feed on mice from their perches at night. They will also occasionally eat squirrels, voles, bats, and chipmunks.

Reproductive Behavior and Nesting

  • Usually, nests are the tree cavities that other species, such as Pileated Woodpeckers, have left behind. Here, the birds deposit four to seven eggs and spend four weeks nurturing them.
  • Within their region, males can draw females to backyard nest boxes by providing food during the incubation period.

Vocalizations and Unique Features

  • Their name comes from the repetitive tooting whistle or “skiew” sound they make, which sounds like a saw whetting.
  • Their small stature, round head, large white eyebrows, dark brown plumage, and thick dark streaks on pale underparts make them easily identifiable.


Owls of Ohio birdzpedia.com
Scientific nameAsio flammeus
Length13.4 – 16.9 in (34 – 43 cm)
Weight7.3 – 16.8 oz (206 – 475 g)
Wingspan33.5 – 40.5 in (85 – 103 cm)

Short ears Unlike other owls, owls are not fully nocturnal; they are frequently active during the day and prefer to hunt around dawn and dusk. They move from their arctic tundra nests in October to Ohio, where they spend the winter, preferring to build their ground nests on wide open fields.

Winter Residence and Seasonality

  • In Ohio, short-eared owls can be spotted from October through March, with some of them remaining until June.

Physical Characteristics

  • Medium-sized owls with huge round pale face disks edged in white, short hooked black beak, and yellow eyes rimmed in black, with small, barely noticeable ear tufts.
  • Barred dark brown tails; light or buffy chests and bellies; strongly streaked dark brown upper breasts; light and dark brown backs and wings with white mottling.

Migration Patterns and Global Distribution

  • Breeding in Canada and Alaska, some migrate to the US for the winter, and some stay in northern US states all year round.
  • Generally found in untamed regions such as broad prairies, coastal grasslands, tundra, marshes, and dunes; absent from Antarctica and Australia.

Hunting Behavior and Diet

  • They hunt during the day, particularly around dawn and dusk, and they prey on active voles, unlike ordinary nocturnal owls.
  • Fly low over the ground, keeping an ear out for the movement of food. They eat small mammals, such as voles and mice, and birds, such as gulls and shorebirds, frequently detaching their wings before consuming them.

Vocalizations and Nesting Habits

  • Generally silent, constantly letting forth a cacophony of cries, barks, hoots, and whines.
  • Hidden among low shrubs and thick grasses, the females build their bowl-shaped nests on the ground by scraping grass into it. The eggs are laid and incubated for a period of four to five weeks.

Interesting Fact

  • Males are usually quiet, but during courtship they can hoot up to twelve times, and when they are protecting the nest, they may bark, whine, or scream.

Key Identifications:

  • This medium-sized, buffy and pale brown owl has extremely small ear tufts.
  • Pale face with dark eye patches and lengthy wings with buff patches at the tips of the wings.
  • nests in thick vegetation on the ground.
  • glides across wide fields in order to capture ground-based tiny animals.


Owls of Ohio birdzpedia.com
Scientific nameBubo scandiacus
Length20.5-27.9 in (52-71 cm)
Weight56.4-104.1 oz (1600-2950 g)
Wingspan49.6-57.1 in (126-145 cm)

North America’s largest owl by weight, the snowy, winters in Northern Ohio. It is common to see them in wide-open spaces like beaches and airports. Strong hunters, they target tiny mammals and birds in midair. Males are usually almost entirely white, while females are white with dark bars.

Winter Residence and Seasonality

  • Ohio’s vulnerable snowy owls spend the winter there from November through January, with some individuals remaining until June.

Physical Characteristics

  • The females have longer tail barring and dark flecks on their wings, sides, and backs, while the males are mostly white with small brown patches.

Arctic Adaptations and Plumage

  • With their bright yellow eyes, thick dark bars on their wingtips, and, in juveniles, considerable brown barring, Snowy Owls are insulated against the cold of the Arctic by their fully feathered legs and feet.

Breeding and Migration Patterns

  • They move to southern Canada and northern US states after reproducing in Arctic locations across the globe, including northern Canada.

Habitat Preference and Diurnal Behavior

  • Found in open Arctic tundra, they hunt in grassy meadows, marshes, and similar settings, and they like places with vantage points for monitoring, such as hummocks and ridges.

Hunting Habits and Prey

  • Hunters by day, they eat small mammals, especially lemmings, and capture birds in the air. During the winter, they also eat rodents, rabbits, squirrels, ducks, and geese.

Vocalizations and Nesting Habits

  • Snowy Owls nest in small hollows on higher tundra areas, reusing nests for years and producing raspy hoots, whistles, and hisses. The nests contain three to eleven eggs, which are incubated by both parents.

Interesting Fact

  • The Snowy Owl, sometimes called the Arctic Owl, Polar Owl, or White Owl, is a rare bird that has evolved special adaptations to survive in its cold environment.



Owls of Ohio birdzpedia.com
Scientific nameAthene cunicularia
Length9 – 11 in (23 – 28 cm)
Weight5.3 oz (150 g)
Wingspan20 – 24 in (51 – 61 cm)

With its white eyebrows and throat, the Burrowing Owl is a tiny, long-legged owl. It has a round head, light underparts with dark barring, and dark brown body with white patches above.

Rare Occurrence in Ohio

  • As an accidental species, burrowing owls are extremely rare in Ohio; the last recorded sighting was in 2008, close to the Wildcat Woods Campgrounds.

Physical Characteristics

  • Little owls with long legs that usually live in prairie dog burrows; they have brown plumage with lots of white patches, yellow eyes and bills, and a noticeable white patch on their chin when they get angry.

Breeding and Migration Patterns

  • Certain populations in the southern US states and Florida remain active throughout the year, while others breed in western US states and spend the winter in Mexico.

Habitat and Hunting Behavior

  • Occurs in deserts, prairies, open grasslands, and agricultural regions; hunts throughout the day and rests in burrows between hunts; prey includes mice, rats, rabbits, gophers, bats, lizards, and small birds.

Vocalizations and Nesting Habits

  • They mimic the rasp of a rattlesnake and emit cooing sounds. In Florida, they dig their own burrows or use those made by prairie dogs or badgers. They use animal waste or manure to attract insects and control the microclimate.

Reproductive Behavior

  • The males assist by providing food, and both parents feed the young until they are approximately three months old. Females lay seven to twelve eggs, which are then incubated for three to four weeks.


Owls of Ohio birdzpedia.com
Scientific nameSurnia ulula
Length14.5 – 17.5 in (37 – 44 cm)
Weight10.5 oz (298 g)
Wingspan33 in (84 cm)

The Northern Hawk Owl is characterized by its small to medium-sized, slender body, featuring a long pointed tail and a square-shaped skull. Its distinctive black and white head contrasts with delicate barring on its pale underparts, while its dark brown upperparts exhibit white spotting.

Accidental Species in Ohio

  • In Ohio, reports of Northern Hawk Owl sightings are regarded as accidental.

Physical Characteristics

  • They feature brown backs and wings with white spots, white bellies with brown stripes, completely feathered legs and feet, and white faces defined by thick black lines. They also have bills and yellow eyes.

Residency and Habitat

  • They live in open pine, spruce, and mixed woods and are primarily found in frigid northern locations such as Canada and Alaska. They are largely migratory and prefer burned forest areas for their nesting grounds.

Feeding Habits

  • mostly feed on mammals, especially voles in the summer, and ground-dwelling birds in the winter, such as grouse and ptarmigan. Unlike most owls, they hunt throughout the day.

Nesting Behavior

  • The females lay up to thirteen eggs and spend approximately a month incubating on nests on broken tree stumps, abandoned woodpecker holes, or decomposed hollows. The males supply food during this time. After hatching, the roles of parents change, with males maintaining the nest and females going hunting.

Interesting Fact

  • Northern Hawk Owls, so named because of their hawk-like appearance and nocturnal hunting habits, have unusual parenting styles in which both parents actively participate in raising their young.


Owls of Ohio birdzpedia.com
Scientific nameAegolius funereus
Length9 – 10 in (23 – 25 cm)
Weight3.6 oz (102 g)
Wingspan20 – 26 in (51 – 66 cm)

The tiny species of owl known as the Boreal Owl has a round or square head with a white face that is outlined with broken black. Its head is a striking black and white pattern that contrasts with its dark brown plumage, which has white spots.

Accidental Species in Ohio

  • In Ohio, boreal owl sightings are uncommon and have been years between sightings.

Physical Characteristics

  • These owls have big, square heads, brown feathers with white spots, and they are really small. Their cheeks are white or gray, with brown or black borders, and they have pale yellow beaks and eyes.

Variations in Appearance

  • Generally speaking, adult females are heavier than males. The plumage of juveniles is chocolate brown, with no white patches on the back or head.

Residency and Habitat

  • The northern coniferous woods of Canada and the northwest states of the United States are home to Boreal Owls, who are non-migratory. They prefer woodlands with trees such as fir, spruce, aspen, poplar, and birch.

Feeding Behavior

  • They hunt mostly at night, specializing in small mammals, birds, and insects. They wait from their perches and strike with their talons. Voles, mice, shrews, bats, frogs, and squirrels are examples of common prey.

Vocalizations and Nesting

  • While female Boreal Owls deposit three to seven eggs in former woodpecker holes and incubate them for almost a month, males of the species sing whistled toots. Males supply food for the duration of the nesting season.

Attracting to Backyard

  • When there are no natural tree cavities, backyard environments can draw Boreal Owls with nest boxes.

Interesting Fact

  • Due to their asymmetrical ear apertures, boreal owls are better able to localize sounds and determine the height and distance of their prey.


Owls of Ohio birdzpedia.com
Scientific nameStrix nebulosa
Length24 – 33 in (61 – 84 cm)
Weight27.2 oz (771 g)
Wingspan54 – 60 in (137 – 152 cm)

The Great Gray Owl is a large, round-headed, dark-gray owl with some light mottling. Its face has a thin black border, and its throat has two white markings.

  • Occurrence in Ohio:
    • Unexpected species that has been absent for a long time.
  • Physical Characteristics:
    • Large head, foot-long tail, and longest facial disk among predatory birds. owing to its thick, fluffy feathers, appears larger.
  • Size:
    • With its enormous tail and wings, it’s regarded as the “World’s Largest Owl”.
  • Appearance:
    • Usually silvery gray with flecks of white, brown, and pale gray. Large spherical head with hooked bill, small yellow eyes, and white collar.
  • Habitat:
    • living in the northwest US states, Canada, Alaska, and along the Pacific Coast. Found in bogs, open meadows with sporadic trees, and deep, moist, evergreen forests.
  • Hunting Behavior:
    • Hunters that hunt at night and have good hearing. Prey includes small mammals such as voles, gophers, mice, chipmunks, and infrequently ducks, jays, and quail. Swoop down to catch them.
  • Calls:
    • Men and women both make hoo calls..
  • Nesting:
    • Make use of abandoned stick nests belonging to huge birds. A female will deposit two to five eggs, which she will then incubate for around a month. After another month, the young depart the nest.
  • Fun Fact:
    • Great Gray Owls are tiny beneath their feathers, giving them the appearance of being enormous, and they typically hunt small animals like mice.

A Quick Guide

Owl SpeciesHabitatDietUnique Features
Eastern Screech-OwlWoodlands, suburban areasMainly insects, small rodents, and birdsSmall in size, nocturnal, and with a unique trill-like call
Barred OwlForests, swamps, suburbsSmall mammals, birds, amphibians, insectsBrown and white barred plumage, black eyes, and a deep hooting cry
Great Horned OwlWide range of habitatsSmall mammals, birds, reptiles, and fishHuge size, recognizable ear tufts, and strong claws
Long-Eared OwlWoodlands, farmlandsSmall mammals, insects, small birdsLong wingspan, noticeable ear tufts, and variegated feathers
Barn OwlOpen fields, farmlandsSmall mammals, birds, insectsPale plumage, a heart-shaped face disk, and silent flying
Northern Saw-Whet OwlConiferous forestsSmall mammals, birds, insectslittle stature, vivid yellow eyes, and whistling call
Short-Eared OwlGrasslands, marshesSmall mammals, birds, insectsHunter both by day and by night, characteristic facial disk, ground nesting
Snowy OwlArctic tundra, open areasSmall mammals, birds, fishBig stature, white feathers, and daytime hunting habits
Ohio’s Rare OwlsVarious habitatsVaried diet depending on speciesUnintentional observations and conservation concerns
Burrowing OwlGrasslands, prairiesSmall mammals, birds, insectsLong legs, ground nester; burrows are used as nests
Northern Hawk OwlConiferous forestsSmall mammals, birds, insectsDay hunter, hawk-like features, characteristic disk in the face
Boreal OwlBoreal forestsSmall mammals, birds, insectsSquare-shaped skull, nocturnal, asymmetric ears for accurate hearing
Great Gray OwlEvergreen forests, bogsSmall mammals, birds, amphibians, insectsBig size, silent flying, face disk, and preference for moist, wooded woodlands
Owls of Ohio birdzpedia.com

Where in Ohio to Look for Owls

  1. Magee Marsh Wildlife Area (Northwest Ohio):
    • Habitat: Marshes and woodlands.
    • Species: Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl.
    • Best Time: Dusk or dawn.
    • Tip: Explore trails and scan treetops.
  2. Hocking Hills State Park (Southeastern Ohio):
    • Habitat: Rugged cliffs, deep gorges, dense forests.
    • Species: Eastern Screech-Owl, Northern Saw-Whet Owl.
    • Best Time: Nighttime.
    • Tip: Listen for distinctive calls.
  3. Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area (Central Ohio):
    • Habitat: Vast wetlands, grasslands.
    • Species: Barn Owl.
    • Best Time: Twilight or early morning.
    • Tip: Explore marshes with binoculars.
  4. Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge (Southern shore of Lake Erie):
    • Habitat: Grasslands.
    • Species: Short-Eared Owl, Long-Eared Owl.
    • Best Time: Active hours.
    • Tip: Scan skies and maintain distance.

Owls in Other States


Ohio’s varied environments, which are home to a multitude of fascinating species, including the stately Great Horned Owl and the cunning Barred Owl, provide owl fans a sanctuary. We are surrounded by a symphony of calls and hoots as we explore marshes, woodlands, and meadows, which helps us to appreciate the exquisite beauty of nature.

Exploring the fascinating world of owls helps us understand the need of protecting these habitats and the balance of ecosystems. Ohio’s acceptance of its status as an owl sanctuary takes us on an enthralling voyage of appreciation and discovery, guaranteeing that these feathered marvels will delight future generations.


  1. Which owl species are commonly found in Ohio?
    • The Eastern Screech-Owl, Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl, and Barn Owl are common owl species in Ohio.
  2. Are owls in Ohio strictly nocturnal?
    • Many species of owls are nocturnal, but some, like the Northern Hawk Owl and Saw-whet Owl, may be active during the day.
  3. Where can I spot owls in Ohio?
    • Owls inhabit a variety of environments, such as open fields, wetlands, and woodlands. Seek them gliding through the night in silence, or perched on branches.
  4. What do owls eat in Ohio?
    • The main food source for owls in Ohio is small animals, such as mice, voles, and rabbits. They might also feed on insects, birds, and sometimes even amphibians or reptiles.
  5. Are there any rare owl species in Ohio?
    • Indeed, several owl species are thought to be uncommon or accidental occurrences in Ohio, such as the Northern Hawk Owl and Burrowing Owl.
  6. How can I attract owls to my backyard in Ohio?
    • Owls might be drawn to areas with trees or nest boxes, which are acceptable habitat elements. Keeping the terrain wild and home to a variety of prey species may also draw owls.
  7. What conservation efforts are in place to protect owls in Ohio?
    • Numerous agencies and conservation groups strive to protect owl habitats and spread knowledge about the value of these birds to Ohio’s ecosystems. Contributions to owl conservation might also come from reporting sightings and funding habitat restoration initiatives.
  8. In Ohio, how common are owls?
    • In Ohio, owls are not very uncommon. In much of the state, one can hear and see the Barred Owl in addition to two other species.
  9. What is Ohio’s largest owl?
    • The Great Horned Owl is the largest owl found in Ohio. This large owl is 22 inches in length and 3.1 pounds in weight. The massive Great Gray Owl is also sporadic in Ohio. It weighs 2.4 pounds and is 27 inches long.

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