Owls in Kentucky have become a fascinating topic for birders and nature enthusiasts. These mysterious nocturnal birds offer a unique glimpse into the wilds of the Bluegrass State.
In recent years, owls have been spotted throughout the state, with reports of nesting pairs and roosting individuals occurring in various locations.
Owl species in Kentucky include Barn Owls, Great Horned Owls, Eastern Screech-Owls, Barred Owls, Long-eared Owls, and Saw-whet Owls.
For those who wish to observe or photograph these magnificent creatures, early spring or late fall are usually prime times when they are more active and visible daily.
Different types of Owls in Kentucky
Owls are one of the fascinating birds in Kentucky. Some of these nocturnal birds can be found in forests, fields, and cities. In the state of Kentucky, seven owl species call our state home.
Great Horned Owl
The Great Horned Owl, also known as Bubo virginianus, is a majestic bird of prey that has been found in the state of Kentucky for centuries. The Owl is often seen perched atop tall trees throughout the state, and its distinctive hooting call can be heard echoing through woodlands and wetlands at night.
The Great Horned Owl is a top predator in its environment, feasting on small mammals like rabbits and rodents. Its sharp nails grasp prey quickly, and its powerful eyesight helps it hunt even in low-light conditions. Its size varies depending on geographic location, but it typically measures 18–25 inches long with a wingspan of 3–4 feet wide.
It is common to see the Great Horned Owl nesting in areas with dense vegetation or near water sources during mating season.
• Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
• Length: 18-25 inches
• Weight: 32-88 ounces
• Wingspan: 40-57 inches
Snowy Owls in Kentucky
The Snowy Owl, a majestic member of the owl family, has been spotted in Kentucky. This species of Owl is most commonly found in Northern Canada and Alaska. It is relatively rare to see them this far south.
The sighting of the Snowy Owl was first reported near Lexington on December 11th by a local birder who observed one perched atop a telephone pole. The individual was identified as an adult female wearing distinct white feathers with black spots throughout her body. She stayed at the location for several days until she flew into the night sky.
This sighting has encouraged birders all over Kentucky to keep their eyes peeled for any other Snowy Owls that might be visiting from up North. If you are lucky enough to spot one, remember not to disturb it and observe respectfully from afar!
• Scientific Name: Bubo scandiacus
• Length: 21-25 inches
• Weight: 40-70 ounces
• Wingspan: 48-60 inches
Barred Owls in Kentucky
The Barred Owl (Strixvaria) is a species of Owl commonly found in the United States and has been spotted in many parts of Kentucky. This large bird can be identified by its black eyes and unique patterning along its wings. The Barred Owl’s call is easily recognizable as it produces a distinctive hooting sound – some describe it as sounding like “who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you all”.
Although they are not considered endangered, their population in Kentucky has declined due to habitat loss and deforestation. Conservation efforts are underway to protect these birds from a further reduction in numbers. In addition to protecting existing habitats, state organizations such as the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources encourage activities such as nest box projects that provide an artificial nesting site for these birds.
• Scientific Name: Strixvaria
• Length: 17-20 inches
• Weight: 17-37 ounces
• Wingspan: 39-43 inches
As one of the most iconic and majestic birds of prey, the Short-Eared Owl is a favorite among bird watchers in Kentucky. The species has been found throughout the state, though it is primarily concentrated in certain areas.
The Short-Eared Owl can be spotted near open grasslands, wetlands, and agricultural fields across Kentucky. They are a migratory species that generally inhabits the region from mid-October to April before heading north for breeding. The owls have large yellow eyes, which they use to spot their prey at night and during twilight hours when they hunt for voles, mice, and other small animals. During the day, they will sometimes perch on fence posts or tree branches to rest or observe their surroundings.
• Scientific Name: Asioflammeus
• Length: 13-17 inches
• Weight: 7-17 ounces
• Wingspan: 33.5-40.5 inches
Long-eared owls in Kentucky can be found in wooded areas throughout the state. These majestic birds of prey are known for their characteristic long ears, which help hone in on their prey’s location. They also have yellow eyes, a white face with black markings, and tan feathers with dark streaks throughout.
These owls tend to live in small family groups or solitary lives and feed primarily on rodents such as mice, voles, and rabbits. They hunt mostly at night and use their sharp vision and hearing to locate their prey from far away. Long-eared owls migrate south during the colder winter months but will often return to the same nesting area year after year.
• Scientific Name: Asiootus
• Length: 14-16 inches
• Weight: 8-15 ounces
• Wingspan: 35-39 inches
American Barn Owl
The American Barn Owl is a species of Owl native to the Great Plains region of North America. It can be found in the United States and Canada, with Kentucky serving as its primary habitat. The American Barn Owl is well-known for its distinct color pattern, with white underparts and an orange face that stands out against dark brown mantle feathers. Its wingspan averages about two feet and it has a petite body with long legs.
The diet of the American Barn Owl consists mainly of small mammals such as voles, mice, rats, and shrews. It will also eat some birds, reptiles, and invertebrates like insects or crayfish when available during the winter when food sources are scarce.
• Scientific Name: Tytofurcata
• Length: 13-16 inches
• Weight: 15-17.5 ounces
• Wingspan: 39-49 inches
The Eastern Screech-Owls in Kentucky is one of the most widely distributed birds in North America. This tiny bird is found throughout much of the United States. In Kentucky, they have commonly seen nesting near wooded areas such as forests and parks. They prefer open spaces with plenty of trees or shrubs to roost during the day.
The Eastern Screech-Owl has adapted well to living in urban settings and can be found close to humans in many states. They are nocturnal hunters and feed on small prey, including insects, rodents, amphibians, reptiles, fruit, and berries. During the breeding season, they produce a unique trilling call that can echo through the night air for miles.
• Scientific Name: Megascopsasio
• Length: 6-19 inches
• Weight: 4-8 ounces
• Wingspan: 19-24 inches
Northern Saw-Whet Owl
The Northern Saw-Whet Owl (Aegoliusacadicus) is a small, nocturnal owl in North America. These owls are known for their distinctive call, which sounds like a one-syllable whistle or vibrating buzz. The Northern Saw-Whet Owl can be found in many parts of the United States, including Kentucky.
In Kentucky, the Northern Saw-Whet Owl is often spotted near moist deciduous forests and woodlands with plenty of low vegetation that serves as cover from predators and provides nesting places. During the breeding season, these owls can also be found near open meadows and agricultural fields, where they hunt for voles and insects. They have been seen throughout the year in Kentucky but are most active from April through October.
• Scientific Name: Aegoliusacadicus
• Length: 7-9 inches
• Weight: 2-5 ounces
• Wingspan: 16.5-22 inche
The Owls in Kentucky can be considered a success story. After receiving protection and support from conservation organizations, the local population of owls has been able to recover and grow. In addition, research studies have provided valuable information about the species’ behavior and habitat requirements, aiding conservation. The presence of owls in Kentucky reminds us that we can protect our wildlife with the right action.