In Florida, you can encounter owl species such as the Eastern Screech Owl, the Barred Owl, and the Great Horned Owl, each with distinct calls echoing the tales of the wild, untamed, yet harmonious natural world. “Owls in Florida” don’t just represent a species; they encapsulate an experience, a connection to nature that is profound and deeply moving.
They are silent witnesses to the changing landscapes and seasons, embodying the pulsating rhythms of life in the wild. From small to large, find out where to spot each owl species in the state. Also, learn fun facts about each one as you explore owls in Florida.
The Barn Owl, Tytofurcata, is a medium-sized owl native to the Americas and Europe. This species has a wingspan of 42.3–43.3 inches, making it one of the giant owls in its region. Its body length ranges from 13–15 inches, with an average weight of 1–1.3 pounds. The scientific name for this species translates to “forked owl,” referring to its distinct facial disk, distinguished by two parallel lines running down each side and widening at the bottom into a fork shape.
This owl species feeds mainly on small rodents and other small mammals, such as rabbits or hares, that inhabit grasslands, meadows, and agricultural areas near its habitat. It hunts by hovering above open fields during dusk or dawn, using its powerful vision to detect its prey quickly.
Short-Eared Owls in Florida
The scientific name Asioflammeus, the Short-Eared Owl is a medium-sized owl found in grasslands and meadows throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Its bright yellow eyes, brownish plumage, and distinctive triangular facial disk make it easily recognizable. This species has one of the widest ranges among owls, featuring a wingspan of 33.5 to 40.5 inches and a body length of 13 to 17 inches.
Though these owls are primarily nocturnal hunters, they can sometimes be seen during the day hunting or flying from one place to another in search of prey. They capture small mammals like voles and mice but feed on birds such as grouse or quail when available. In terms of weight, the short-eared owl can range between 7.3 ounces (210 grams) and 16.
The Burrowing Owl, scientific name Athenecunicularia, is unique in many parts of the world. These tiny owls in Florida are well known for their iconic burrowing habits and distinctive features. Standing between 7.6 to 10 inches tall, burrowing owls weigh only 5.3 ounces on average, with an impressive wingspan ranging from 21 to 21.5 inches. This allows these owls to have excellent agility while flying through the air.
Although they may look similar to other owl species, they can easily be distinguished by their bright yellow eyes and long legs with feathered paws that allow them to dig into the ground quickly and efficiently as they search for prey or build their own homes beneath the surface.
The Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascopsasio) is a small owl species native to North America. It is one of the most common owls in eastern North America and can be found in deciduous and coniferous forests. This tiny owl typically measures 6.3-9.8 inches long, has a wingspan of 18-24 inches, and weighs between 4.2-8.6 ounces. The Eastern Screech-Owl has two colour morphs, grey and red, with the red morph being more common in western areas of its range while the grey morph is more widespread across the east.
This nocturnal bird hunts primarily from dusk until dawn, consuming insects, earthworms, frogs, mice, and other smaller birds or mammals, depending on what’s available in their habitat.
Barred Owls in Florida
The Barred owl, scientifically known as the Strixvaria, is a fascinating and graceful bird. This owl species is found throughout North America. It is medium-sized, with an average length of 16–25 inches and a weight between 1–2.75 pounds. It has large eyes and broad wings that span 38–49 inches when fully extended.
The barred owl is a nocturnal creature with remarkable hearing abilities, which it uses to hunt at night for small mammals in its natural environment. Its feathers are also uniquely adapted to allow for silent flight, so it can sneak up on prey without being detected. This owl species typically lives in wooded areas near waterways or wetlands, although it has been spotted in various habitats ranging from suburban backyards to city parks.
Great Horned Owl
The Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) is a majestic and powerful bird of prey. This large owl is the second heaviest in North America, weighing between 2.5 and 4 pounds with a wingspan of 36 to 60 inches. The Great Horned Owl can be found in many habitats, from dense forests to suburban parks throughout the Americas and even parts of Canada.
This species measures 17–25 inches long with yellow eyes with dark circles around them and a pair of prominent ear tufts on either side of its head, giving it an iconic look. Its upper body is brown and white barred, while its lower body is mainly light buff or whitish, barring some grey shading. It has solid talons for capturing prey and excellent vision, which helps it locate food at night—up to three times better than humans.
The Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) is a majestic and beautiful bird of prey found in the northern regions of Europe, Asia, and North America. This large owl stands an impressive 20.7–25 inches (53–64 cm) tall with a wingspan covering 47–60 inches (120–150 cm). This bird has soft white feathers speckled with black, making it easy to spot against its snowy backdrop.
They typically weigh between 3.3-4 pounds (1.5 – 1.8 kg), though females tend to be larger than males. Snowy owls have extraordinary vision, which they use to find their prey at night or during snowstorms when visibility is low. They mainly hunt small mammals such as rodents, hares, lemmings, and other birds like ptarmigans and waterfowl.
Fun Facts about Owls in Florida
- Night Hunters: Owls have excellent night vision and are primarily nocturnal, hunting at night.
- Silent Flight: Owls have specially adapted feathers that allow them to fly silently.
- Head Turning: Owls can turn their heads 270 degrees to look in almost every direction.
Tips for Owl Watching
- Time: The best time to observe owls is during dusk and dawn.
- Binoculars: Bring a pair of binoculars for a closer look.
- Respect: Maintain a safe distance to avoid disturbing the owls.
Owls in Florida are a unique species of bird to observe. From the tiny Screech Owl to the large Great Horned Owl, they all play an essential role in our state’s diverse ecosystems. Each owl has unique traits and behaviours make them fascinating to watch while they hunt, breed and raise their young. With some knowledge and patience, Floridians can take advantage of these opportunities to observe our state’s seven owl species.
Some more Questions
What are the most common owls in Florida?
The most common Owls in Florida are the Barred owls (Strixvaria). This owl species is found throughout the southeastern United States, including Florida. It prefers to live in mature forests with a dense canopy and plenty of trees for nesting.
Where can I see owls in Florida?
The most popular spot is the Everglades National Park; this park has various species of owls that can be seen throughout the year. You can also visit the Apalachicola National Forest and St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, which have excellent habitats for owls and other wildlife.