If you’re like most people, when you picture an owl, you picture a wise, earthy-colored bird perched in the trees, perhaps making its distinctive call: “Who-who?” However, if you’ve ever had the opportunity to see an owl or two in your backyard, you’ll know that each bird can look and sound vastly different!
In fact, there are about 250 owl species in the world, with a handful of them ranging around North America. From tiny creatures to massive birds of prey, these fascinating owls may catch you by surprise.
If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of these adaptable birds, here are a few to look out for in your backyard.
One of the most widespread owl species in the US, barn owls have distinctive heart-shaped face and a short, square tail. As nighttime hunters, they spend a great deal of time in meadows and open fields, taking advantage of their wide, 30-40-inch wingspan to snare their prey.
As its name suggests, the elf owl is a small bird and the lightest of the North American owls. With a wingspan of just 10cm, they have a distinctive round head and tend to make their nests in the hollows of trees. Homeowners in the southwestern US are more likely to catch a glimpse of these owls, whose favorite foods include small insects like moths.
Due to its clever camouflaging, the barred owl can be difficult to spot. However, its distinctive nighttime calls are a clue that one of these stocky birds is nearby! Because they don’t migrate and tend to stay within a small area, you may be able to encourage one of them to make themselves at home in an owl box for nesting purposes.
Eastern Screech Owl
Based on the name, you can probably guess that these owls tend to be noisy neighbors! These large, tufted, tree-dwelling owls have coloration ranging from deep grey to dusty red. Their diet ranges from small insects to reptiles to rodents, and they’ll even eat small birds like swallows and finches!
With a round facial disc and golden eyes, the tiny burrowing owl is common from the Midwest to the coast and into Canada. With their long legs, they make themselves at home in small underground burrows, where they prey on insects and small vertebrates.
Great Horned Owl
Though its name suggests the presence of horns, this owl in fact has a pair of distinctive feathered tufts atop a brown or grey face. It tends to remain within regions that have dense forests, where it hunts for everything from insects to hares. Due to their large size, these owls have even been known to eat house cats, so take care if you see one in your backyard!
Find Different Types of Owls in Your Backyard
Depending on where you live, you might find a wide range of types of owls making themselves at home in your backyard. Do a little research into the species in your area to learn what you can do to make your yard more welcoming to them, allowing you to catch a glimpse of their beautiful flights and hunting patterns from a safe distance.
Looking for more quick tips to help you make the most of the world of wildlife around you? From our furry friends to exotic creatures, we’ve got plenty of tips on our blog—so check them out!