13 Types of Owls in Texas [Images + Ids]

The Lone Star State is home to a diverse range of ecosystems, from the piney woods of East Texas to the arid deserts of the west. This variety of habitats provides a home for a wide range of owl species, each with its unique characteristics and behaviors.

In this post, we’ll introduce you to the various owl species that call Texas home, including the powerful Great Horned Owl, the small but mighty Elf Owl, and the elusive Western Screech-Owl that’s often heard but rarely seen.

We’ll explore their habitats, migration patterns, and hunting techniques, and share tips on how to spot them in the wild. We’ll also discuss the challenges that owls face in Texas, such as habitat loss and human disturbance, and what you can do to help protect these amazing birds.

Whether you’re a seasoned birder, a nature enthusiast, or simply curious about the wildlife of Texas, we invite you to join us on a journey to discover the fascinating world of owls in the Lone Star State.

13 Types of Owls in Texas:

  • Great Horned Owl
  • Barn Owl
  • Eastern Screech Owl
  • Barred Owl
  • Flammulated Owl
  • Northern Saw-Whet Owl
  • Snowy Owl
  • Western Screech Owl
  • Short-Eared Owl
  • Long-Eared Owl
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Spotted Owl
  • Elf 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.

Barn Owl

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  • Scientific name: Tyto alba
  • Life span: up to 20 years in captivity
  • Size: length of 12-16 inches, wingspan of 39-49 inches
  • Weight: 0.5-1.4 lbs
  • Origin: worldwide distribution

The barn owl earned its name because it prefers to reside in abandoned barns and other structures in rural regions. They also build their nests in tree cavities. They search for prey by flying over wide spaces and listening and have great hearing as you could imagine.

A barn owl may be identified by its distinctive face. They have heart-shaped faces made of pure white, with big, black eyes. Their back and wings are rather speckled and either grey, golden, or cinnamon in color. They seem all-white from below while they are flying because their breast and the undersides of their wings are both white. In contrast to the great horned owl, they lack ear tufts.

Barn owl chicks will go far from their nest to discover their own territory, but once they locate a place they like, they remain there their whole lives.

Except for a few locations in a few of the central northern states, you can see barn owls everywhere throughout the US and Mexico.

Eastern Screech Owl

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  • Scientific name: Megascops asio
  • Life span: up to 14 years in the wild
  • Size: length of 6.5-10 inches, wingspan of 18-24 inches
  • Weight: 4-8 oz
  • Origin: eastern North America

As one would anticipate, the eastern screech owl is related to the western screech owl. With a little overlap in the Rocky Mountains between their western relative, this owl resides on the east side of those mountains.

The eastern screech owl is a skilled concealer. They seamlessly blend into the bark of the trees where they prefer to perch and build their nest thanks to their grey or reddish-brown mottling. You may not even notice them until you get a glimpse of their glowing, brilliant yellow eyes.

They have a golden beak, noticeable ear tufts, and a black V between their eyes.

These owls hunt at night, which makes it extremely harder to observe them. The best course of action is to listen for their whiny trill call.

If you don’t like bird watching at night, take a closer look at the tree cavities as you stroll through their natural habitat. They can be seen while they snooze the day away.

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.

Flammulated Owl

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  • Scientific name: Psiloscops flammeolus
  • Life span: up to 10 years in the wild
  • Size: length of 5.5-6.7 inches, wingspan of 14-16 inches
  • Weight: 1.2-2 oz
  • Origin: western North America

Flammulated owls are quite small. It is not much bigger than a sparrow. These owls spend the daytime roosting in trees and hunting at night. They fly out at night to find their bug food and eat it.

They are found in the western US’s coniferous woods. During the mating season, you may locate them in a few locations in the western states. They reside in Mexico all year round.

If you were to simply hear their cry, you could think they were something much, much bigger for such a little bird. They sound big because of their deep, booming hoot. This aids in keeping other predators at bay.

Look for a little owl with vertical belly stripes and feathery ear tufts. They have grayish-gray backs and black eyes.

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.

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.

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.

Burrowing Owl

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  • Scientific name: Athene cunicularia
  • Life span: up to 9 years in the wild
  • Size: length of 7-10 inches, wingspan of 21-24 inches
  • Weight: 5.5-8 oz
  • Origin: North and South America

The majority of owls reside in trees or bushes, although burrowing owls may run along the ground in prairies, deserts, and grasslands because they have long legs. They engage in rodent hunting before settling in tunnels that other creatures, such as ground squirrels and prairie dogs, have abandoned.

They will even hunt little rodents before occupying their burrows. If it is not possible, they will reside inside tubes or pipelines.

They have evolved a high tolerance for carbon dioxide, which accumulates in subterranean places, as a result of their adaptation to living underground.

To recognize them, look for long-legged owls with brown mottling and brilliant yellow eyes and a flat head.

Spotted Owl

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  • Scientific name: Strix occidentalis
  • Life span: up to 15 years in the wild
  • Size: length of 16-19 inches, wingspan of 42-45 inches
  • Weight: 18-24 oz
  • Origin: found in old-growth forests in western North America from British Columbia to Mexico.

The Spotted Owl is a medium-sized owl species native to North America. It has distinctive brown and white plumage, with large round eyes and no ear tufts. They are known for their preference for old-growth forests as habitat, where they nest in tree cavities or on large branches. Spotted Owls are mostly nocturnal, hunting small mammals and birds, and have a relatively low reproductive rate, making them vulnerable to habitat loss and other threats. Due to their declining population, they are listed as a threatened species in the United States.

Elf Owl

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  • Scientific name: Micrathene whitneyi
  • Life span: up to 3 years in the wild
  • Size: length of 5-6 inches, wingspan of 13-16 inches
  • Weight: 1-1.5 oz
  • Origin: found in desert areas of southwestern United States and Mexico.

Elf Owl is the smallest owl species found in North America, measuring only about 5 to 6 inches in length and weighing around 1 ounce. They have a round head with no ear tufts, large yellow eyes, and a light brown body with white and buffy spots. Their wings are relatively short and rounded, allowing for quick and agile flight.

Elf Owls are primarily nocturnal and can be found in desert areas, including the southwestern United States and Mexico. They feed on insects, spiders, and occasionally small vertebrates such as lizards and small rodents. Despite their small size, Elf Owls are known for their loud, piercing calls, which they use to communicate with each other and defend their territory. During the breeding season, they nest in cavities in trees or cacti, and females typically lay 2 to 4 eggs. Despite their small size, the Elf Owl is an important part of the desert ecosystem and is a fascinating species to observe in the wild.

Conclusion

Texas is home to a variety of owl species, including the Great Horned Owl, the Barn Owl, and the Eastern Screech-Owl. These owls play an important role in the ecosystem and are fascinating creatures to observe. However, it is important for individuals to be respectful of these birds and their habitats in order to ensure their continued presence in the state.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What species of owls can be found in Texas?

There are several species of owls that can be found in Texas, including the Great Horned Owl, Eastern Screech-Owl, Western Screech-Owl, Barn Owl, Burrowing Owl, Short-eared Owl, Long-eared Owl, and Northern Saw-whet Owl.

When is the best time to spot owls in Texas?

The best time to spot owls in Texas is during the winter months, from December through February. This is when owls are most active and vocal and are more likely to be seen.

Where are the best places to spot owls in Texas?

Owls can be found in a variety of habitats in Texas, including forests, grasslands, wetlands, and deserts. Some of the best places to spot owls in Texas include state parks, wildlife refuges, and other protected areas.

What should I bring with me when looking for owls in Texas?

When looking for owls in Texas, it’s important to bring binoculars or a spotting scope, as well as warm clothing and sturdy footwear. It’s also a good idea to bring a flashlight or headlamp, as many owls are active at night.

Are there any conservation efforts in place to protect owls in Texas?

Yes, there are several conservation efforts in place to protect owls in Texas. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department works to protect and manage owl habitats, and there are also several organizations that work to educate the public about owl conservation and advocate for their protection.

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