10 Types of Owls in Alaska [Images + Ids]

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Alaska is a vast wilderness with a diverse range of ecosystems, and is home to a variety of owl species that have adapted to the unique environmental conditions of the state. From the tiny Northern Pygmy-Owl to the imposing Great Gray Owl, these birds of prey are an important part of Alaska’s ecosystem and a popular subject for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.

In this post, we will delve into the different types of owls found in Alaska, their habitats, behaviors, and conservation status. We’ll also share some tips on how to spot and identify these elusive creatures in the wild, and provide some resources for further reading and exploration.

Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher, a wildlife enthusiast, or just curious about the natural world, we invite you to join us on a journey to discover the fascinating world of owls in Alaska!

10 Types of Owls in Alaska

  • Great Horned Owl
  • Great Gray Owl
  • Barred Owl
  • Northern Saw-Whet Owl
  • Snowy Owl
  • Short-Eared Owl
  • Long-Eared Owl
  • Western Screech Owl
  • Boreal Owl
  • Northern Hawk Owl
  • Northern Pygmy-Owl

Great Horned Owl

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  • Scientific name: Bubo virginianus
  • Life span: up to 13 years in the wild
  • Size: length of 18-25 inches, wingspan of 36-60 inches
  • Weight: 2-5.5 lbs
  • Origin: North, Central, and South America

Because of its depiction in films like the Harry Potter series and its distinctive hoot, the great horned owl is well recognized. These enormous owls have a maximum weight of five and a half pounds. They can take down ferocious prey like ospreys and falcons because they have powerful claws and good flying abilities.

Once they get something in their claws, it takes 28 pounds of power to pull them apart.

From Mexico to northern Alaska, these birds may be found across North America. It lives in deserts, mountains, woodlands, and plains and is one of the most widespread owls. The great horned owl is equally at home in urban environments, suburban regions, and natural places.

All of this suggests that your chances of seeing one are excellent.

The great horned owl has golden eyes and long hair around the ears. They may have a body that is cream or light grey with bars that are grey, cinnamon, or both.

Contrary to what you may have heard, they can’t really turn their heads 360 degrees, in case you were curious. Yet, they can spin their heads 180 degrees which seems to be rotating their heads entirely around. These birds move their heads back and forth because they are unable to shift their eyes from side to side.

Great Gray Owl

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  • Scientific name: Strix nebulosa
  • Life span: up to 40 years in captivity
  • Size: length of 24-33 inches, wingspan of 53-60 inches
  • Weight: 2-4 lbs
  • Origin: boreal forests of North America and Eurasia

One of the biggest owl species in the US is the great grey owl. They are a little bit lighter, yet they are bigger than a Great Horned Owl and are around the size of a goose and a crow.

The owl is grey with silver, white, and brown bars or streaks, as the name implies. They have brown rings around their brilliant yellow eyes, and a white “X” divides their eyes and have a big, spherical skull but no ear tufts.

Great Gray owls are difficult to locate since they don’t want to be around people or populated areas. You normally see them rather than hear them since they don’t cry out frequently and are silent as they fly. Furthermore, Great Gray Owls are small-mammal hunters that reside in coniferous woods.

Barred Owl

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  • Scientific name: Strix varia
  • Life span: up to 24 years in captivity
  • Size: length of 16-25 inches, wingspan of 38-49 inches
  • Weight: 1-2 lbs
  • Origin: North America

The great horned owl and the barred owl are almost the same size, but the barred owl weighs significantly less. They have prominent bars all over their body and are a mottled brown and white color. On the rest of their bodies, the breasts’ bars are both vertical and horizontal.

These birds are not loud ones. While they often remain silent, sometimes you may hear them calling out throughout the day.

Barred owls like dense forests, whether they are in a marsh or high on a mountain. They are not seen in urban areas or on plains. They are widespread throughout the eastern US and as far north as Canada. The birds’ range has grown recently, and now the Pacific Northwest is home to colonies of them as well. they are non-migratory birds and settle in one location for all their lives. They will, however, travel great distances to hunt if they are unable to obtain food.

Northern Saw-Whet Owl

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  • Scientific name: Aegolius acadicus
  • Life span: up to 7 years in the wild
  • Size: length of 7-8 inches, wingspan of 16-18 inches
  • Weight: 2.3-5.3 oz
  • Origin: North America

The body of a northern saw-whet owl is mottled brown and white, and it is little, approximately the size of a robin. They have heart-shaped faces with large golden eyes and a little white V-mark between their eyes.

They are hard to spot, particularly because they hunt at night, but you may tell they are around if you hear their harsh cry. If you look closely, you may be able to see them since they build their nests in tree holes at around eye level during the day.

Don’t search for them in open spaces or urban areas since they exclusively inhabit woods, especially old forests. They travel long distances for breeding and eat tiny rodents like shrews and mice. Moreover, They will also consume sparrows, waxwings, chickadees, and juncos.

They are found all throughout the United States, with small breeding populations in the South and widespread permanent populations in the North, including the Rocky Mountains and western Coastal ranges.

Snowy Owl

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  • Scientific name: Bubo scandiacus
  • Life span: up to 9 years in the wild
  • Size: length of 20-28 inches, wingspan of 49-59 inches
  • Weight: 3.5-6.5 lbs
  • Origin: Arctic regions of North America, Europe, and Asia

The snowy owl is a beautiful bird. The males have predominantly white plumage that becomes whiter as they mature, and they have eyes that are a striking, cat-like yellow. Females and young birds have markings that are dark brown or black.

Throughout the long summer days, snowy owls hunt for animals like lemmings and ptarmigans in the Arctic Circle. Throughout the winter, they migrate south to Canada, Alaska, and the far north of the US.

You may often see them sitting on the ground at their hunting places. They will also perch on fences, hay bales, power or telephone poles, and abandoned buildings. They examine the tundra or fields where they prey by flying low to the ground.

It is uncommon to see a snowy owl, particularly when their numbers are decreasing rapidly.

Short-Eared Owl

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  • Scientific name: Asio flammeus
  • Life span: up to 10 years in the wild
  • Size: length of 13-17 inches, wingspan of 33-43 inches
  • Weight: 7-16 oz
  • Origin: North and South America, Europe, and Asia

You were correct to assume that these owls had little ear tufts. Owls have ear tufts that assist guide sound to their ears so they can hear prospective predators and engage in hunting. The ear tufts of short-eared owls are tiny and resemble little horns.

These owls may be identified by their characteristic brown and white mottling that is bordered by black bars. The eyes are golden and have heavy black outlines around the cream-colored face.

Their unusual appearance makes it simpler to notice them, but the fact that they are active throughout the day makes it much easier to see them. They also have a distinctive flying pattern that is similar to a moth, which makes identification much easier.

Short-Eared Owls don’t love woody places as many owls do. They like wide-open spaces like meadows and fields where they may sit on the ground and listen for potential prey. Then, in order to capture their prey, they soar up and plunge down. Even their nests are underground.

Long-Eared Owl

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  • Scientific name: Asio otus
  • Life span: up to 10 years in the wild
  • Size: length of 13-16 inches, wingspan of 35-39 inches
  • Weight: 7-15 oz
  • Origin: widespread across North America, Europe, and Asia.

The term “long-eared owl” comes from the extremely lengthy ear tufts on these birds. With hints of buff or orange, the tufts are mostly black and have two white lines between their bright eyes.

They have spotted and thin brown bodies. These nocturnal raptors forage on meadows or open spaces while nesting in trees.

Long-Eared Owls often make hoots, squeals, and barks that are easy to recognize. They can fly very long distances, although they typically only migrate at night. Birds that migrated from Canada to Mexico in a single year have been discovered by researchers.

Boreal Owl

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  • Scientific name: Aegolius funereus
  • Life span: up to 10 years in the wild
  • Size: length of 8-11 inches, wingspan of 20-24 inches
  • Weight: 3.5-7 oz
  • Origin: boreal forests of North America and Eurasia

Boreal Owls live their whole lives in the same approximate location, but if they can’t find food there, they’ll go elsewhere. They stay in the woods and favor the highest elevations. Place a nest box in your backyard if you live close to a mountain or a forest, and they could move in.

These owls prowl the night in search of food. They do not, however, fly around actively hunting. Instead, they calmly wait in a tree for a mouse or rat to move across the ground. They then launch an assault.

The boreal owl is a cute bird. They have a huge, square head and are roughly the size of a robin. They have a mainly white face and a body that is mostly brown with white mottling. The females are almost twice as big as the males.

Western Screech Owl

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  • Scientific name: Megascops kennicottii
  • Life span: up to 11 years in the wild
  • Size: length of 7-10 inches, wingspan of 18-24 inches
  • Weight: 4-8 oz
  • Origin: western North America

The size of a robin would be comparable to a western screech owl. The shriek they produce, however, is anything but little. They blend in so completely with their surroundings that they are hard to see in the wild. Sit outdoors at night and keep an attentive ear out for a screech owl’s screech if you wish to see one.

They have light breasts and a grey, brown, or red foundation and black lines all over their body that remarkably resemble the bark of numerous trees. Moreover, They have distinctive V-shaped ear tufts and bright eyes.

Western Screech Owls are nocturnal and live in holes in trees and cacti, but if you supply them with a nestbox in your backyard, they will also settle there.

Furthermore, They are strong birds and are even capable of picking up even an adult rabbit but their main food is rodents.

Northern Hawk Owl

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  • Scientific name: Surnia ulula
  • Life span: up to 10 years in the wild
  • Size: length of 15-17 inches, wingspan of 33-43 inches
  • Weight: 7-16 oz
  • Origin: boreal forests of North America and Eurasia

While it is an owl in actuality, the Northern Hawk Owl derives its name from the way it acts like a hawk. For example, they hunt by sight, have long tails, and perch at the tops of trees. Yet they have round heads, golden eyes, and bodies that are spotted with grey, brown, and white. Moreover, they have grey faces with black borders that give them a very owl-like appearance.

Most of the time, they hunt during the day, but you could spot them searching for food in the woodlands where they live at night.

These birds normally inhabit Canada’s far north, but if food is in short supply during the winter, they may migrate to the southern US.

Northern Pygmy-Owl

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  • Scientific name: Glaucidium gnoma
  • Life span: up to 7 years in the wild
  • Size: length of 6-7 inches, wingspan of 14-16 inches
  • Weight: 2.5-3 oz
  • Origin: western North America

The moniker could have led you to believe that this is a little owl. They are mostly brown in color, with more noticeable white spots on their wings and back and smaller white dots on their head. To frighten off other predators like Great Horned Owls, they have two patches on the back of their neck that mimic eyes.

They are common in the Pacific Northwest and most of the Rocky Mountains because they nest in conifers and live in woods.

They remain in the same place for the whole of their life rather than migrating. During the coldest season of the year, they will relocate to lower altitudes.

They build their nests in tree cavities, as many other owls do. But, they don’t really create the hole. They search for animal or natural decay-related holes.

In addition to eating tiny birds, reptiles, insects, and animals, northern pygmy owls sometimes catch bigger birds like quail. They engage in daytime hunting.


Alaska is home to several species of owls, including the great horned owl, snowy owl, and northern hawk owl. These majestic birds play a vital role in controlling rodent populations and maintaining ecological balance in the state. It is crucial to protect their habitats and ensure their continued presence in Alaska.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What species of owls can be found in Alaska?

A: There are several species of owls that can be found in Alaska, including the great horned owl, northern hawk owl, short-eared owl, boreal owl, northern pygmy owl, and snowy owl.

Q: When is the best time of year to see owls in Alaska?

A: The best time to see owls in Alaska is during the winter months when the longer nights and greater prey availability make it easier to spot them.

Q: What habitats do owls in Alaska prefer?

A: Different owl species in Alaska have different preferences for habitat. For example, great horned owls prefer forested areas, while northern hawk owls prefer open areas with scattered trees.

Q: Are owls in Alaska migratory?

A: Some species of owls in Alaska, such as the snowy owl, are migratory and will leave the state during the summer months. Other species are resident year-round.

Q: Are owls in Alaska endangered?

A: While some species of owls are considered at risk or vulnerable in other parts of the world, all of the species found in Alaska are considered to have stable populations and are not currently endangered. However, their habitats and food sources can be impacted by climate change and other environmental factors, which could affect their long-term survival.

I'm Nauman Afridi, the bird enthusiast behind Birdsology.com. My lifelong passion for birds has led me to create a space where fellow bird lovers can find valuable insights and tips on caring for our feathered friends.Professionally, I'm a brand strategist and digital marketing consultant, bringing a unique perspective to the world of bird care. Whether you're a novice or an experienced bird owner, Birdsology.com is designed to be a welcoming community for all.Feel free to explore, and reach out if you have any questions or just want to chat about birds.
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