Majestic and captivating animals, aren’t owls a hoot? Owls are one of the most well-known birds in mythology and literature, they often symbolize knowledge and understanding as they are sometimes referred to as the bird of Athena, the goddess of intellect and reason.
Owls are deemed to be very versatile species, which means they can adapt and survive in different places including domestic areas, forests, swamps, mountains, and deserts. One state in the US that is considered home for some of the owl species is the sunshine state of Florida.
Florida which is a popular tourist destination for its beaches and coastlines is also a haven for different species and wildlife.
This state has a diverse environment which is evident by Florida’s famous spots, such as the Everglades and the Great Florida Birding trail, because of this Florida is hosts to more than 500 species of birds, which makes this state heaven for an avid birdwatcher. Grab your binoculars and camera. Below are the different owl species you can spot in Florida.
1. Burrowing Owl: Birds on Stilts
The burrowing owl is the most common species of owls found in Florida, but they are more common in Cape Coral than anywhere in Florida. They are one of the smallest owls in the world, they can grow to 9 inches in height and can weigh as light as 7 ounces.
You can identify a burrowing owl for its distinct short, square tail, and its long and slender legs.
Expert Tip: These owls are called burrowing owls because, yes, they live in burrows they dug for themselves or take over dug holes abandoned by squirrels, and they spend most of their time underground.
However, even if burrowing owls prefer to be underground, they are diurnal, which means that they are most active during the day.
2. Eastern Screech Owl: Opportunistic Predator
Despite its namesake, the Eastern Screech Owl does not screech. This specie of owl is midsized, they are stocky, short, and with a large head. Their colors are very distinct as their color morph ranges from gray to reddish-brown.
The Eastern screech owl is very versatile when it comes to its habitats, they can live in swamps, forests, and suburban environments. These owls are highly nocturnal, and they are most active during the night, so birdwatchers are challenged when it comes to observing them, also they are extremely solitary except during mating season.
Some experts dubbed the eastern screeching owl an opportunistic predator because its diet includes small insects, earthworms, fishes, and small mammals that are easily captured and abundant.
3. Great Horned Owl: An Aggressive Hoot
With a massive wingspan of 5 feet and is 25 inches tall, the great horned owl is the largest specie of owls. They are native to the US and are largely concentrated in Florida. Great horned owls are found in a wide range of habitats, such as forests, swamps, cities, and parks.
They are deemed territorial when it comes to their homes, and to establish their territory, great horned owls make a deep-sounding hoot to warn off potential predators and other creatures. Great horned owls are very aggressive hunters, they can take down large prey such as hawks, cats, and sometimes owls.
With their large yellow eyes, these owls are very intimidating but at the same time fascinating to observe.
4. Short-eared Owl: Creature of Dusk and Dawn
The short-eared owl is a grassland owl of middling size. It is named because of its rounded head with short ear tufts. They live in open country and grassland and are often found perch in low trees. Their brown, buff and white plumages are mottled above and buff below, with dark streaks on the breast.
The face is white in the middle and has a brown facial disc with a pale rim. Dark eye patches surround its piercing golden eyes. The short-eared owl hunts during daylight and is most active during dawn and dusk.
Aside from mating areas, where it emits a low sequence of hoots and a variety of harsh barking noises, it is rarely heard vocalizing even during the winter season. Due to the decline of their natural habitat in Florida and climate change as an environmental factor, there has been a drop in their number as observed these past few years.
5. Barred Owl: The Laughing Bird
Medium-sized owls with brown eyes and no ear tufts, Barred owls are often found in the swamps and woodlands of Florida. The Barred Owl’s deep baritone hooting is a distinctive sound in southern marshes, where members of a pair frequently call back and forth.
Even though the bird is most active at night, it will call and even hunt during the day. . Due to the numerous sound Barred owls make, they are often called the laughing owl. The Barred owl is just slightly smaller than the Great Horned Owl, and it is far less aggressive.
The Barred owl often feasts on small mammals such as rabbits, rodents, and squirrels, and since they are often found in swamps, they also eat fish and small crabs. Their backs have modest mottling and are gray-brown in hue. Breasts are barred horizontally, while bellies are barred vertically, with an obvious distinction between the two.
Expert Tip: Barred Owls are slightly larger than Spotted Owls, which are closely related and look alike.
6. Barn Owl: A Farmer’s Friend
This bird has drawn a lot of superstition because of its ghostly appearance, rasping shrieks, and habit of roosting in sites like church bell towers. It is, nevertheless, a good omen for farmers who discover it in their barns, as it feeds primarily on mice and rats.
When the Barn Owl is discovered in its daytime hideaway, it bobs its head and loops back and forth, gazing at the visitor. It is frequently heard calling late at night when it flies high over farms or wetlands. The Barn owl hunts mostly at night, and in rare cases, during the day.
They hunt by flying low over open land, observing and listening for prey, they occasionally hunt by flying down from a nest. It has outstanding low-light vision and hearing so sensitive that it can attack prey in complete darkness.
7. Snowy Owl: Pale Creature of the Tundra
Snowy owls are a rare occurrence in Florida, however, they are often spotted in the northeastern portion of the state. They are huge and powerful owls of the high Arctic regions but are sometimes found in open fields and vast grasslands.
Male Snowy owls have white-colored feathers for winter camouflage, as portrayed by Hedwig in the Harry Potter movies, females, on the other hand, are barred by darker colors. Snowy owls may be mobile in the summer, concentrating and breeding in areas with large concentrations of tiny rodents like mice and lemmings.
The snow owls often hunt during the day and are less active during the night.
8. Northern Saw-whet Owl: Small but Loud
Northern Saw-whet Owls are small in size, they are morphed in color brown feathers and their wings are striped with distinct white feathers. They are named because their calls resemble the sound of saw teeth being sharpened against a rock.
Their bright yellow eyes are framed by white brows, their face is round and unlike other owls, they don’t have ear tufts. Northern Saw-whet owls are nocturnal, and most active at night hunting small prey such as mice and frogs. During the day, they roost, hidden from other creatures, and their presence is only revealed by their occasional whines.
Expert Tip: Though Northern Saw-whet owls are one of the smallest owls in the world, they are loud, and their call can be heard as far as 300 meters.
So those were the different species of owls you may spot when you’re in Florida. And an additional fun tip, listening to owls’ sounds while trying to view them up close is a nice approach to watching them without disturbing them. Because owl sounds are highly specific and distinct, this technique can be used to identify specific owl species.
Birdwatchers can always observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, however, you must be careful when viewing them since they are easily spooked and when they are scared they may abandon their nest and have a hard time finding another suitable home.