Owls are captivating birds known for their nocturnal habits, distinctive hooting calls and remarkable ability to hunt in near silence. With about 200 species found worldwide, these birds of prey come in various sizes and colors. Here, we dig in to 10 types of owls.
1. Barn Owls
Scientific name: Tyto alba
Habitat: Found globally in open country, grasslands and agricultural areas
Key characteristics: Heart-shaped facial disc, pale plumage and excellent low-light vision
Barn owls have distinctive, pale faces. Facial discs help these exceptional hunters funnel sound to their ears, allowing them to locate prey with precision, even in complete darkness. The barn own is about the same size as a crow (which is smaller than a raven).
2. Snowy Owls
Scientific name: Bubo scandiacus
Habitat: Arctic tundra, open fields and marshes
Key characteristics: White plumage with dark markings, large size and intense yellow eyes
The snowy owl is an icon of the Arctic, perfectly adapted to the snowy surroundings. They are highly nomadic, sometimes venturing south during periods of food scarcity in the Arctic Circle. The female owls of this species typically has a greater abundance of dark markings than the male owls.
3. Great Horned Owls
Scientific name: Bubo virginianus
Habitat: Diverse habitats including forests, deserts and urban areas
Key characteristics: Prominent "horns" or ear tufts, large size and a varied diet including mammals, birds and reptiles
The great horned owl is among the largest and most adaptable owl species. Their hooting calls resonate through the night, signaling their presence in a wide range of environments. In North America, this is the most common owl.
4. Eastern Screech-owls
Scientific name: Megascops asio
Habitat: Woodlands, parks and suburban areas
Key characteristics: Small size and a remarkable ability to blend into tree bark.
The Eastern screech-owl is elusive and often goes unnoticed due to its exceptional camouflage abilities. It is similar in size to a robin and typically seen in shades of gray, red or brown.
5. Western Screech-owls
Scientific name: Megascops kennicottii
Habitat: Forests, woodlands, urban parks and areas near rivers or streams
Key characteristics: Small birds with camouflaged plumage.
These birds look similar to the Eastern screech-owl, but they are classified as different species with a unique sound.
6. Whiskered Screech-owls
Scientific name: Megascops trichopsis
Habitat: Canyons, woodlands and forests
Key characteristics: Prominent "ear" tufts and intricate patterning
The whiskered screech-owl has distinctive facial markings that resemble whiskers or bristles. These markings are often visible on the sides of the face.
7. Burrowing Owls
Scientific name: Athene cunicularia
Habitat: Open grasslands, deserts and prairies
Key characteristics: Long legs, distinctive head-bobbing behavior and a preference for nesting in burrows
The burrowing owl has a unique habitat, often residing in abandoned burrows of mammals.
8. Long-eared Owls
Scientific name: Asio otus
Habitat: Woodlands, coniferous forests and marshes
Key characteristics: Long "ear" tufts, a slender appearance and a preference for roosting in dense foliage
The long-eared owl has a graceful appearance and striking tufts that resemble ears. These owls hunt small mammals in wooded areas.
9. Northern Hawk Owls
Scientific name: Surnia ulula
Habitat: Northern forests, especially coniferous woodlands.
Key characteristics: Hawk-like appearance, diurnal hunting habits and exceptional agility in flight
The Northern hawk owl stands out for its diurnal hunting behavior, actively searching for prey during daylight hours. Their adaptability sets them apart from typical owls.
10. Barred Owls: Hoots in the Heart of Forests
Scientific name: Strix varia
Habitat: Dense woodlands, swamps and wooded urban areas
Key characteristics: Dark eyes, horizontal barring on the chest and a haunting hooting call
The barred owl is a vocal members of the owl family, often making its presence known with distinct hoots. Their dark eyes and barred plumage contribute to their mysterious allure.
Owls face various challenges, including habitat loss and illegal hunting. Conservation efforts, such as those led by organizations like the American Bird Conservancy, play a crucial role in preserving owl species and their habitats.
This article was created in conjunction with AI technology, then was fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.
Original article: 10 Types of Owls: From Tiny Screech-owls to Great Horned Owls
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