In Wisconsin, there are 11 types of owls that call the state home. The three most common species are the Great Horned Owl, Eastern Screech-owl, and Barred Owl, thanks to the favorable climate and prey in the area. However, Wisconsin also welcomes migrating visitors and rarer species that move south from Canada. Wildlife enthusiasts can explore the woodlands, cliffs, canyons, and great lakes of Wisconsin to catch a glimpse of these fascinating creatures. From the fluffy-feathered Great Horned Owl to the elusive Snowy Owl, each species has its unique characteristics and habitats. So, grab your binoculars and enter the world of these majestic birds of prey in Wisconsin!
The 11 Types of Owls in Wisconsin
Wisconsin is home to a diverse range of owl species, with 11 different types that can be found in the state. From the majestic Great Horned Owl to the elusive Snowy Owl, each species has its own unique characteristics and habitat preferences. In this article, we will explore the 11 types of owls in Wisconsin, providing information on their size, weight, wingspan, habitat, and behavior.
1. Great Horned Owl
The Great Horned Owl is one of the most commonly found owl species in Wisconsin. They have a length ranging from 18.1 to 24.8 inches and a weight of 32.1 to 88.2 ounces. With a wingspan of 39.8 to 57.1 inches, these owls are known for their ability to silently fly due to their fluffy feathers. Great Horned Owls can be found in woodlands, cliffs, and canyons throughout Wisconsin. They are predominantly active at night and are rarely seen during the day.
2. Eastern Screech-owl
The Eastern Screech-owl is a smaller owl species, with a length ranging from 6.3 to 9.8 inches and a weight of 4.3 to 8.6 ounces. They have a wingspan of 18.9 to 24.0 inches. These owls are commonly found in the southern parts of Wisconsin, in both suburban and rural areas. They prefer woodland habitats with streams and meadows. Unlike some other owl species, Eastern Screech-owls are native to Wisconsin and do not migrate far from their preferred habitat.
3. Barred Owl
Barred Owls have a length ranging from 16.9 to 19.7 inches and a weight of 16.6 to 37.0 ounces. Their wingspan measures between 39.0 to 43.3 inches. These owls are often found in greater plains and wide-open areas in Wisconsin. They prefer older forests with evergreens and deciduous trees. To spot a Barred Owl in Wisconsin, a trip to the state’s great lakes may be necessary.
4. Great Gray Owl
With a length of 24.0 to 33.1 inches and a weight of 24.7 to 60.0 ounces, the Great Gray Owl is one of the largest owl species in Wisconsin. They have a wingspan ranging from 53.9 to 60.2 inches. These owls have migrated from the boreal forests of Canada to Wisconsin. They are known for their ability to break through hard-packed snow to catch prey, such as squirrels and small rodents. Great Gray Owls can be found throughout Wisconsin, particularly in areas with abundant ground-critters.
5. Northern Hawk Owl
The Northern Hawk Owl is a relatively rare sighting in Wisconsin, with visits usually lasting around four months. They have a length of 14.2 to 17.7 inches and a weight of 8.5 to 16.0 ounces. Their wingspan measures 27.9 inches. If spotted, these owls are often found in Wisconsin’s cave deposits. The Northern Hawk Owl has exceptional vision, allowing it to spot prey from a distance of half a mile.
6. The Boreal Owl
The Boreal Owl is a small owl species, with a length of 8.3 to 11.0 inches and a weight of 3.3 to 7.6 ounces. They have a wingspan ranging from 21.6 to 24.4 inches. These owls can be found inhabiting beautiful trees in Wisconsin, including spruce, poplar, birch, and balsam fir. Despite their small size, Boreal Owls stand out due to the lack of ear tufts.
7. Barn Owl
The Barn Owl is a permanent resident in parts of southern Wisconsin, but relatively rare in the rest of the state. They have a length of 12.6 to 15.8 inches and a weight of 14.1 to 24.7 ounces. Their wingspan measures between 39.4 to 49.2 inches. True to their name, Barn Owls can often be found occupying barns and other abandoned structures. They also roost in hollow tree trunks and clumps of trees.
8. Long-eared Owl
Common throughout Wisconsin, the Long-eared Owl is known for its preference for dense trees near grassland or pasture areas. They have a length of 13.8 to 15.8 inches and a weight of 7.8 to 15.3 ounces. Their wingspan ranges from 35.4 to 39.4 inches. During the winter, Long-eared Owls often roost in small communities in clumps of trees. They prefer to use abandoned nests built by other birds and their call can be heard from over a kilometer away.
9. Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owls are residents in southern Wisconsin throughout the year, but only visit the northern parts of the state during the breeding season. They have a length of 13.4 to 16.9 inches and a weight of 7.3 to 16.8 ounces. Their wingspan measures between 33.5 to 40.5 inches. These owls prefer open ground habitats and are often easier to spot than other species due to their daytime hunting behavior. Female Short-eared Owls are known to defecate on their eggs, potentially to disguise the location of their nest or repel predators.
10. Northern Saw-whet Owl
To catch a glimpse of a Northern Saw-whet Owl in Wisconsin, it is best to familiarize yourself with its distinct call. These owls have a unique call that sounds like a blade being sharpened with a whetstone. They can be found throughout the state throughout the year. Northern Saw-whet Owls are relatively small, with a length of 7.1 to 8.3 inches and a weight of 2.3 to 5.3 ounces. Their wingspan ranges from 16.5 to 18.9 inches.
11. Snowy Owl
Traditionally associated with the tundra or taiga, the Snowy Owl has been gradually expanding its breeding range southward. In Wisconsin, they can be found throughout the winter. These owls have a length of 20.5 to 27.9 inches and a weight of 56.4 to 104.1 ounces. Their wingspan measures between 49.6 to 57.1 inches. Snowy Owls are active both day and night, allowing them to be top predators regardless of the time of day.
Each of these 11 owl species has its own unique characteristics and adaptations that allow them to thrive in Wisconsin’s diverse habitats. From the silent flight of the Great Horned Owl to the distinctive call of the Northern Saw-whet Owl, these birds are a fascinating part of Wisconsin’s wildlife. Whether you’re a beginner birdwatcher or a seasoned owl enthusiast, keep an eye out for these magnificent creatures on your next outdoor adventure in Wisconsin.