13 Species of Owls in Arizona (With Pictures)

Owls in Arizona are a sight to behold. Various owl species exist throughout Arizona’s varied habitats, from the Great Horned Owl to the Western Screech Owl. These nocturnal birds of prey use their keen eyesight and hearing to find their target even in the dark. 

Arizona is home to at least fourteen species of owls, including the Burrowing Owl, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, and Elf Owl. The Great Horned Owl is one of the most common owls in Arizona, and it can often be heard calling out its distinctive “hoo-hoo-hoo hoo” at night. Other species, such as the Spotted Owl, are less commonly seen but may be spotted during the early morning or late evening hours. 

Table of Contents

Barn Owl

Barn Owl(Owls in Arizona)

The majestic Barn Owl, also known as the Common Barn Owl, is a sight to behold here in Arizona. With their heart-shaped face and long wingspan, these owls make for an impressive presence in the sky. 

 Barn owls are native to all parts of Arizona and can be found throughout the state’s diverse landscape. They are most commonly seen hunting at sunrise or sunset near open fields or pastures where small mammals like mice can be found. These owls typically live alone but occasionally form pairs during the breeding season. 

Barn owls have nested in odd places such as abandoned buildings, tree cavities, and even on artificial structures like bridges and towers! Seeing one of these beautiful creatures fly through the air is a unique experience we can enjoy here in Arizona. 

Specification: 

Scientific NameTyto alba 
Length12.6-15.8 inches
Weight14.1-24.7 ounces 
Wingspan39.4-49.2 inches 

 Flammulated Owl

Flammulated Owl(Owls in Arizona)

The Flammulated Owl, a small bird of prey native to the southwestern United States, thrives in Arizona. Recently, researchers from the Grand Canyon Trust conducted an extensive survey of the Flammulated Owl population in the Coconino National Forest. This survey revealed that more than 600 pairs of these owls live in Arizona. 

The Flammulated Owl is significantly smaller than its cousin, the Great Horned Owl. It has soft brown plumage with white streaks on its chest and a dark stripe over each eye. These birds feed on insects such as moths and beetles and can nest in old woodpecker cavities or occasionally abandoned buildings. Though they prefer coniferous forests higher in elevation, they can also be found near rivers or streams at lower elevations throughout Arizona’s mountainous terrain. 

Specification

Scientific NamePsiloscops flammeolus 
Length5.9-6.7 inches 
WeightPsiloscops flammables 
Wingspan15.9-16.1 inches 

Whiskered Screech-Owl 

Whiskered Screech-Owl(Owls in Arizona)

The Whiskered Screech-Owl is a small, nocturnal owl native to Arizona. This owl species is known for its distinctively long ear tufts and ability to screech at high volumes during mating season. The Whiskered Screech-Owl prefers habitats in desert scrublands, riparian areas, and oak woodlands throughout Arizona. 

Since the 1970s, the Whiskered Screech-Owl’s population has decreased due to habitat loss caused by various sources such as urbanization, farming, and mining. Conservation efforts are now to protect this species from further endangerment, including education programs and research initiatives. 

Specification

Scientific NameMegascops trichiasis 
Length6.5-8 inches 
Weight3 ounces (male), 3.3 ounces (female) 
Wingspan15.7-19.7 inches 

 Western Screech-Owl

 Western Screech-Owl(Owls in Arizona)

The Western Screech-Owl is a species of small owl native to Arizona. It has a distinctive, high-pitched call that is heard at night and during the winter. These owls are part of the Strigidae family, which includes other screech and saw-whet owls. They have large yellow eyes and brown feathers with white streaks that help camouflage them in their desert habitat. 

 Western Screech-Owls can be found in wooded areas near streams, reservoirs, and urban regions. They tend to live in cavities, such as holes dug out by woodpeckers or cracks between rocks and tree trunks, which provide shelter from predators like coyotes and hawks. 

Specification: 

Scientific NameMegascops kennicottii 
Length7.5-9.8 inches 
Weight3.5-10.8 ounces 
Wingspan21.6-24.4 inches  

 Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl(owls in Arizona)

Arizona is home to various wildlife, including a species of nocturnal raptor: the great horned owl. These majestic birds inhabit diverse habitats throughout Arizona and can make for an exciting sighting for those lucky enough to spot one in its natural habitat. 

 The great-horned owl stands out from other owls due to its large size and impressive horns, which are tufts of feathers that give the bird its signature look. They have a mottled brown color with yellow eyes, making them quite striking when seen up close.

Despite their intimidating appearance, these owls are pretty shy and solitary creatures who prefer to hunt alone or with their mate at night when they have fewer potential predators around them. Great horned owls feed on rodents such as mice, voles, rats, and sometimes even skunks! 

 Specification

Scientific NameBubo virginianus 
Length18.1-24.8 inches 
Weight32.1-88.2 ounces
Wingspan39.8-57.1 inches 

Northern Pygmy-Owls in Arizona

Northern Pygmy-Owl(Owls in Arizona)

The Northern Pygmy-Owl is a small owl native to the Arizona region. It can be found in riparian woodlands, conifer forests, and desert scrublands throughout the state. Like most other owl species, these are diurnal, active during the day rather than at night. 

These tiny birds have a distinct look, measuring just 7 inches tall with a wingspan of around 16 inches. They have brown heads and backs with white spots and vertical brown stripes on their bellies. Their eyes are yellow-orange, and their bills are black. Northern Pygmy-Owls also have ear tufts that stand up when alarmed or excited. 

Specification

Scientific NameGlaucidium gnoma 
Length6.3-7.1 inches 
Weight2.1-2.5 ounces 
Wingspan14.5-16 inches 

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl 

 Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl 

The Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl is a rare species of owl that has been spotted throughout Arizona. This beautiful bird can reach up to eight inches in length and typically has a reddish-brown color with white spots. It is also known for its more prominent eyes, which help it see better in the dark. 

This owl prefers semi-open habitats such as woodlands, savannas, grasslands, and deserts. It feeds mainly on small insects and rodents but occasionally eats birds and reptiles. The Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl nests in holes within trees or cacti and lays two to four eggs at a time. 

Specification

Scientific NameGlaucidium brasilianum 
Length5.1-5.5 inches
Weight1.44 ounces 
Wingspan15.0 inches 

Elf Owls in Arizona

Elf Owl(Owls in Arizona)

The Elf Owl, scientifically known as Micrathene Whitney, is a tiny bird native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. This small owl species have been spotted in Arizona for centuries and are one of the more exciting animals in the region. 

The Elf Owl stands about five inches tall and weighs about an ounce. Its feathers are primarily gray-brown with pale barring on its back and wings, while its face sports a distinct pattern of concentric circles around its eyes. While they may appear small, they are active during their nocturnal activities. They hunt using their keen sense of hearing to locate prey such as insects, lizards, spiders, scorpions, and mice, among other items.  

Specification

Scientific NameMicrathene Whitney
Length4.9-5.7 inches 
Weight1.4 ounces 
Wingspan10.5 inches 

Burrowing Owls in Arizona

Burrowing Owls

Burrowing Owl is a small and curious species of owl that stands out amongst other owls because of its unusual habitat choice. Like most other owls, this species has adapted to dig burrows in the ground instead of building nests in trees. 

This has allowed them to become one of Arizona’s most abundant raptors, particularly in areas with open fields and agricultural lands. The Burrowing Owl is an essential part of Arizona’s wildlife. It serves as a reminder that even small animals can significantly impact their environment. 

Specification

Scientific NameAthene cunicularia 
Length7.5-9.8 inches 
Weight5.3 ounces
Wingspan21.6 inches 

Spotted Owl

Spotted Owls in Arizona

The spotted owl is a species of significant conservation value in the United States. Once abundant in Arizona, the spotted owl has become increasingly rare as its habitat shrinks due to human activity.

The spotted owl is now endangered under state and federal regulations, making it illegal for anyone to kill or harass them without proper permits. To help protect their habitats, logging has been restricted, and land management programs have been implemented throughout much of the Southwest region.

New technology has allowed scientists to track owls and identify potential areas suitable for re-population efforts. These efforts are proving successful, and it’s hoped that the spotted owl will once again flourish in Arizona’s forests one day. 

Specification

Scientific NameStrix occidentalis 
Length18.5-18.9 inches 
Weight17.6-24.7 ounces 
Wingspan39.8 inches 

Long-Eared Owl

Long-Eared Owl

The long-eared owl is a species found throughout the United States and Canada. The species is known for its distinctively large ears, which give it an impressive hearing range. In Arizona, the long-eared owl can be found in many habitats, such as scrublands, grasslands, and forests. They are nocturnal and feed on small mammals like mice, voles, and rabbits. 

In the spring months of March to June, these owls start looking for nesting sites to raise their young. To help attract mates, they will perform courtship displays consisting of singing, flying back and forth high in the sky, or even swooping down low near potential nest sites. During this period, they can occasionally be seen hunting or calling out from perches during daylight hours. 

 Specification

Scientific NameAsio otus 
Length13.8-15.8 inches 
Weight7.8-15.3 ounces 
Wingspan35.4-39.4 inches 

 Short-Eared Owl 

Short-Eared Owl 

Another interesting bird species to call Arizona home is the Short-Eared Owl (Asio flammeus). This owl can be found throughout much of the United States but is particularly abundant in parts of Arizona. 

Short-Eared Owls are unique because they hunt during both day and night, unlike most other owls that typically hunt only at night. These birds feed primarily on small mammals like mice and voles, which they capture with their paws while in flight.

They also have a distinct appearance; their wingspan can reach up to 40.5 inches, with pale yellow eyes and streaked brown feathers along the head and back. 

In Arizona, these owls migrate south to lower elevations during the winter when food sources become scarcer at higher altitudes. 

Specification

Scientific NameAsio flammeus 
Length13.4-16.9 inches 
Weight7.3-16.8 ounces
Wingspan33.5-40.5 inches 

Northern Saw-Whet Owl 

Northern Saw-Whet Owl

The Northern Saw-Whet Owl is a species of owl native to North America. It has been spotted in Arizona, where its population has increased over the years. The tiny owl is active at night and lives in coniferous forests, making its home among tall trees. 

The Northern Saw-Whet Owl is easily identified by its bright yellow eyes and white eyebrows that form a V shape on its head. It’s smaller than most owls in Arizona, measuring only 7 inches long with a wingspan of 18 inches. While they are not endangered, they are listed as a species of particular concern due to their declining population numbers in some areas. 

Owls in Arizona can roost in tall pine trees or nest inside abandoned woodpecker cavities during the day. 

Specification

Scientific NameAegolius acadicus 
Length7.1-8.3 inches 
Weight2.3-5.3 ounces 
Wingspan16.5-18.9 inches 

Conclusion 

Owls in Arizona represent a unique, diverse group of birds that play an essential role in the local environment. The importance of their conservation cannot be understated, as they are part of the food chain, help control pests, and provide many other services.

By being aware of the threats to owls, such as urbanization, habitat destruction, and hunting, individuals can help ensure that these majestic birds continue to inhabit our beautiful state.