The Idaho Owls are the unique owls in the United States. These owls are found only in Idaho and have a few different habits that set them apart from other owls. Idaho Owls are ground dwellers that hunt small mammals like rabbits and hares. They are also known for their loud screeching calls that can be heard up to a mile away.
Owls are some of North America’s most widespread birds, so it’s no wonder Idaho is a great place to find them. The state is also well-known for its abundant bird life, making it an excellent place to study owls and their ecology. There are plenty of places in Idaho where you can find owls nesting, hunting, or flying through the air. Whether you’re a birder or enjoy nature, Idaho is worth exploring for these fascinating creatures!
Top 14 Species of Idaho Owls:
Most people know that owls are birds of prey. But did you know that Idaho owls are some of the state’s most exciting and unique species? Here are 14 of Idaho’s owl species:
Great Gray Owl:
The Great Gray Owl is a sight to behold in Idaho. This majestic Owl, with its distinct round face and bright yellow eyes, is the largest species of Owl found in North America. It stands between 24-33 inches tall and has a wingspan of up to 60 inches wide. The Great Gray Owl lives in the Clearwater Mountains and can be spotted in northern parts of Idaho, such as Coeur d’Alene National Forest and St. Joe National Forest.
Known for its silent flight, this Owl is an impressive hunter that feeds on small mammals like mice and voles, making it an essential part of the food chain in Idaho’s forests. Despite their size, they are pretty elusive due to their excellent camouflage skills, which blend perfectly into their environment of dense coniferous forests or meadows.
Scientific Name: Strixnebulosa
Length: 25-33 inches
Weight: 1.5-4 pounds
Wingspan: 60 inches
The Barred Owl (Strixvaria) is a widespread species of Owl that has been spotted in Idaho. This large Owl is well-known for its distinctive call and adaptability to various ecological conditions. With its wide range across the United States, this nocturnal bird can be seen throughout many parts of Idaho, including the northern forests, peaceful valleys, and river banks.
Barred Owls are characterized by a white facial disc with thin streaks of black on both sides, which makes them easy to identify even from far away. They also have greyish-brown bodies with vertical stripes along their wings and tail feathers, which help them blend into the tree tops where they typically nest during mating season.
Scientific Name: Strixvaria
Length: 16-25 inches
Weight: 1-2.75 pounds
Wingspan: 38-49 inches
Barn owls are a species of Owl found worldwide, and Idaho is no exception. Barn owls have become an iconic symbol of this western state with their distinct, heart-shaped faces and white bellies. Barn owls can be found in agricultural areas and grasslands in northern and southern Idaho.
Barn owls hunt at dusk and dawn, preying on small animals such as rodents and frogs. They are also known for their distinctive call, consisting of a long screeching sound followed by short hoots. Interestingly enough, barn owls do not build nests – instead, they roost in tree cavities or abandoned buildings left behind by humans.
Idaho’s wild landscapes provide excellent homes to these majestic birds; however, like many other species, they face population decline due to habitat loss caused by urbanization.
Scientific Name: Tytofurcata
Length: 13-15 inches
Weight: 1-1.3 pounds
Wingspan: 42-43.3 inches
The Western Screech-Owl is a small owl native to western North America that can be found in Idaho. This species of Owl is one of the few nocturnal birds to inhabit the area, and it stands out due to its unique call, which sounds like a horse whinnying. The Western Screech-Owl’s diet consists mainly of small mammals, insects, other invertebrates, and other small birds. Its preferred habitats include open woodlands with large trees for roosting and nesting sites, making Idaho an ideal location for this species.
The males and females look similar in size and coloration; however, their voices are distinct; the males have a trilled two-note whistle, while the females have a single hoot.
Scientific Name: Megascopskennicottii
Length: 7.5-10 inches
Weight: 3.5-11 ounces
Wingspan: 22-24 inches
Idaho’s Short-Eared Owl is a medium-sized owl found in open grasslands, prairies, marshes, and meadows throughout the state. This nocturnal bird is known for its distinctive bright yellow eyes and short ear tufts. The Short-Eared Owl has been spotted throughout Idaho, from Boise to Salmon to Lewiston.
The Short-Eared Owl is an impressive hunter as it dives down on its prey at high speeds. It mainly eats small rodents such as voles and mice but also consumes insects, reptiles, and amphibians. During the summer months, they can be seen perched in trees or on the ground hunting for food. They are known to hunt during the day as well as at night.
Scientific Name: Asioflammeus
Length: 13-17 inches
Weight: 7.3-16.8 ounces
Wingspan: 33.5-40.5 inches
The Long-Eared Owl (Asiootus) is an impressive species of Owl that has recently been spotted in Idaho. The sighting of this beautiful bird is a welcome addition to the area’s wildlife, and it has caused much excitement among local bird watchers. Rarely seen during daylight hours, Long-Eared Owls are known for their long ear tufts and dark eyes, which give them a mysterious appearance.
The Long-Eared Owl is typically found in wooded habitats near open fields and wetlands, but with climate change occurring more frequently, it’s not unusual for these owls to migrate to find new places to live. In Idaho, they have been seen nesting in trees like conifers and aspen groves in high-elevation areas such as mountains and hillsides.
Scientific Name: Asiootus
Length: 13.8-15.8 inches
Weight: 7.8-15.5 ounces
Wingspan: 35.5-39.5 inches
The Flammulated Owl may be one of Idaho’s most elusive birds, but its presence and importance to the state’s bird populations shouldn’t go unnoticed. This tiny, nocturnal Owl is found in coniferous and mixed-conifer forests throughout Idaho during the summer. It can often be heard calling out its distinctive “hoohoohooooo!” at night. Though they are rarely seen due to their secretive nature, Flammulated Owls play an essential role in keeping Idaho’s ecosystem balanced by preying on insects like moths and beetles.
Idaho’s Flammulated Owls are a vital part of the state’s natural landscape, so much so that they have become protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and other state regulations.
Scientific Name: Psiloscopsflammeolus
Length: 5-6 inches
Weight: 1.8-2.3 ounces
Wingspan: 14 inches
The Boreal Owl’s diet consists mainly of small rodents, though they may occasionally supplement their meals with other prey such as insects and smaller birds. They typically hunt at night by searching for prey in low bushes or trees near meadows or open areas. During the day, they will choose a sheltered resting spot until dusk.
Idaho is home to majestic wildlife, and the Boreal Owl is no exception. This small owl species can be found in coniferous forests throughout the state, usually nesting in tree cavities or abandoned stick nests of other birds. Its unique plumage makes it easily identifiable even from a distance – its medium-length wings feature bold white spotting, and its body is covered in browns, tans, and whites.
Scientific Name: Aegoliusfunereus
Length: 9.5-11.5 inches
Weight: 3.5-7 ounces
Wingspan: 22-24 inches
Great Horned Owl:
The Great Horned Owl is a majestic nocturnal creature in Idaho and North America. They are a widespread and familiar sight in coniferous forests, grasslands, deserts, swamps, and even city parks. The species has adapted well to living alongside humans and can be spotted gliding across the night sky with their unique hooting call echoing through the air.
The Great Horned Owl is quite large compared to other birds of prey, with females being significantly larger than males. A mature owl can have a wingspan of up to five feet long, typically weighing only 2-5 lbs. They have iconic yellow eyes that allow them to see clearly at night and tufts of feathers on the top of their head, giving them their name.
Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
Length: 17-25 inches
Weight: 2.5-4 pounds
Wingspan: 36-60 inches
Burrowing Owls are a rare species of Owl that have been spotted in many locations across Idaho. These small but mighty birds live in underground burrows, which they create or use abandoned ones created by other animals. The Burrowing Owl has a unique appearance with its long legs and yellow eyes. It is also known for its distinct call, which can be heard during the night and early morning hours in open areas like deserts, grasslands, and even agricultural lands.
The Burrowing Owl population has decreased rapidly over the past few decades due to development, pollution, and habitat loss. This decline has caused the species to be listed as threatened on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s list of threatened species in Idaho since 2008.
Scientific Name: Athenecunicularia
Length: 8-11 inches
Weight: 5.5-8.5 ounces
Wingspan: 21-24 inches
The Snowy Owl is a majestic bird that has recently made its presence known in Idaho. Native to Arctic regions, this beautiful creature is now being spotted throughout the state. Reports of sightings have been rising since 2017, and local bird enthusiasts are thrilled.
The Snowy Owl’s white feathers and yellow eyes give it an imposing appearance, with adults weighing up to five pounds! Though they usually hunt during the day, they’ve also been known to feed occasionally at night. With its feathered wingspans measuring up to five feet across, it’s easy for even amateur birdwatchers to spot them in flight.
These powerful birds can live for up to ten years and travel great distances when migrating.
Scientific Name: Bubo scandiacus
Length: 20.7-25 inches
Weight: 3.3-4 pounds
Wingspan: 47-60 inches
Northern Saw-Whet Owl:
Idaho is home to many wildlife, one of its most unique and exciting inhabitants being the Northern Saw-Whet Owl. Found throughout Idaho in wooded areas, this small owl species is highly adaptable and can be found in urban and rural settings. The Northern Saw-Whet Owl has an impressive wingspan of up to 21 inches but typically only weighs between 2.5 to 4 ounces – making it one of the smallest species of Owl found in North America.
These beautiful birds are nocturnal hunters that feed mainly on small rodents such as mice and voles, though they have also been known to take insects. They often perch during the day on fence posts or tree branches overlooking open fields, where they keep watch for their next meal.
Scientific Name: Aegoliusacadicus
Length: 7-8.3 inches
Weight: 2.3-5.5 ounces
Wingspan: 16.5-19 inches
The Northern Pygmy-Owl is a small owl species native to North America. This Owl has been spotted in Idaho, although its population and range are limited. The Northern Pygmy-Owl prefers coniferous forests with dense vegetation for roosting and nesting sites. In Idaho, these owls, such as in Coeur d’Alene or Priest Lake National Forests, can be found primarily in the northern part of the state.
These elusive birds have distinct features that make them stand out from other species of pygmy owls. They have white spots on their wings, a grayish-brown back, brown barring on their chest, white eyebrows, and a yellow bill with dark splotches near the base.
Scientific Name: Glaucidiumcalifornicum
Length: 6-7 inches
Weight: 2.2-2.5 ounces
Wingspan: 15 inches
Northern Hawk Owl:
The Northern Hawk Owl is a stunning species of Owl found in the forests of Idaho. Its small body size, white facial disks, and yellow eyes characterize it. The Northern Hawk Owl has been documented in various regions in Idaho since the late 19th century and is one of the most common birds to visit during winter months.
This particular Owl can be seen searching for prey during daylight hours due to its exceptional vision. It mainly feeds on small mammals such as mice, voles, shrews, and occasionally some bird species. This majestic creature prefers coniferous forests with an abundance of dead trees or snags, where they usually build their nests on top of old tree stumps or fallen trees.
Scientific Name: Surniaulula
Length: 14.3-17.8 inches
Weight: 12 ounces
Wingspan: 30-35 inches
Idaho owls are an incredible species to observe. Whether for their beauty, strength, or stealth, these birds of prey will surely captivate any audience. Conservation efforts in the region have successfully preserved the owl populations and will continue to do so with the help of local wildlife centers. With more research and understanding of their behavior, we can continue to protect this magnificent species.
Are owls common in Idaho?
Owls are not particularly common in Idaho but can be found in some areas. The most commonly seen owl species in Idaho is the Great Horned Owl, often seen in wooded areas and near bodies of water. Other owl species spotted in Idaho include the Northern Pygmy-Owl, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, and Saw-whet Owls.
What is the biggest owl in Idaho?
The Great Gray Owl is the biggest in Idaho. It has a wingspan of up to 5 feet and stands about 2 feet tall. It is easily recognizable by its large size and bright yellow eyes. The Great Gray Owl is primarily found in northern Idaho but can also be seen in some areas of the south.
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