It’s no secret that owls are some of my favorite birds. There are 6 types of owls in Florida, which makes 6 good reasons to get out there and get birding. If you love these birds as much as I do, read through this guide to learn all about the 6 species of owls native to Florida.
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Owls In Florida: Here’s 6 Species Of Owls In Florida
1. Barn Owl
Barn owls are one of the most beautiful owl species in Florida. Barn owl sightings have been made pretty much throughout the state, with many sightings of these owls in central Florida. These birds are resident all year round, and they prefer open country and farmland where they nest and sleep in buildings, caves, and natural cavities in trees.
Florida barn owls mostly feed on rodents but often hunt other birds as well. These pale-colored owls appear mostly white below and have a scary, screeching call. These birds mate for life and are often quite happy to breed in nest boxes of the right size and in the right location.
Barn owls in Florida have heart-shaped faces with black eyes, and richly marked backs in shades of golden brown and grey. They are fairly small, long-legged owls that measure about 14 inches long.
2. Eastern Screech-owl
Eastern screech owls must have the most amazing camouflage of all the Florida owls. They use this to blend in perfectly against the bark of trees so that their predators and prey can’t see them. At about 8 inches long, these are the only small owls in Florida that can be found in wooded habitats throughout the state.
These owls can be seen in two different color morphs. Some birds are brick-red while others are grayish. Both morphs have yellow bills and eyes.
These birds nest in cavities in trees or in nest boxes. During this time, the male provides food to the female who mostly stays in the nest. Screech owls eat all sorts of animals, including insects, rodents, birds, and sometimes even other screech owls. These nocturnal owls hunt by dropping onto their prey, talons-first from a branch.
3. Great-horned Owl
The Great-horned owl is the largest Florida owl species. They can be found pretty much all over the Sunshine State. These giants of the owl world can be found in a wide range of wooded habitats, particularly in areas with clearings and open fields nearby.
Great-horned owls in Florida eat just about any kind of animal they can overpower, including other owls and birds of prey. They hunt by watching for prey from a tree or other place with a good view and then fly out to catch it with their huge talons.
Great horned owls don’t build their own nests, and instead, use natural cavities or old nests built by other large birds. With a big enough nest box, you might even be able to attract a pair to your property. These owls have a classic hooting call.
4. Barred Owl
Barred Owls are a common species that occur throughout Florida. These owls prefer mature forest areas near water as their favorite habitat. They are vocal birds that have a call that is described as ‘Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?’
Barred owls in Florida aren’t very particular about what they hunt. These birds eat everything from squirrels to birds, reptiles, frogs, and even fish. They hunt by dropping down onto their prey from a branch up in a tree.
Barred owls nest in large nest boxes, cavities in trees, or old abandoned nests of other large birds. These resident birds stay in the same area throughout the year, never moving very far at all from their part of the forest.
Barn Owl vs Barred Owl
Although these two Florida owls have very similar names, they are very different birds. Barred Owls are much larger, darker birds that prefer the forest to the open areas and farmlands that Barn Owls usually inhabit
5. Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owls are strange owls in south Florida. Usually, we think of owls as nocturnal hunters that are seen perched high in the branches of a tree, or on a roof top for example. Burrowing Owls do things a little differently.
These owls hunt during the day, and nest and sleep underground. Yes, you read right, these owls live in burrows that they inherit from other burrowing animals like ground squirrels, or dig themselves. They are small Florida owls of about 9 inches long and have big bright yellow eyes, yellow bills, and long legs.
Burrowing Owls in Florida mostly hunt for insects, although they also eat a lot of mice, lizards, and small birds. They hunt both during the day and night and catch their prey by running, jumping, or flying at it.
6. Short-eared Owl
Although there are scattered sightings of this owl from the north to the south of the state, these are not common Florida owls. These birds avoid tall vegetation and forests and are usually seen in open habitats like grasslands, marshes, and farmland.
These owls mostly eat small mammals like mice and shrews but also feed on small birds. They do not nest in Florida and are only present in the state outside of the breeding season.
These birds hunt by flying low over their hunting grounds, often during broad daylight, and drop suddenly onto their prey to capture it. This is a smallish owl, similar in size to the Barn Owl.
What is the biggest owl in Florida?
The biggest owl in Florida is the Great-horned Owl. These impressive birds grow up to about 25 inches long and can weigh over 5lbs. At this size, they are more than twice the size of their nearest competitor, the Barred Owl.
What do owls in Florida eat?
Owl diets vary by species but these hunters usually aren’t very picky about what they catch. Owls in Florida will eat mammals from mice right up to rabbits or even larger. They also eat other birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, crustaceans, and fish.
Where do owls go during the day?
Most owls roost on branches in trees, or in cavities in trees, caves, or buildings during the day. Some owls, like the Burrowing Owl and the Short-eared Owl, hunt during the day and can be found out and about in their preferred habitats.
What attracts owls to your yard?
Owls are attracted by suitable habitats, a source of prey animals, and good places to nest. You can attract owls to your property by putting up a nest box or two. Of course, the size of the nest box should match the size of the owl you’re trying to attract.
The Sunshine State has some really great owls for bird watchers to see. From the mighty Great Horned Owl to the tiny Eastern Screech-owl, the owls of Florida are truly amazing birds. So get out there and get looking, you might be surprised at what you find hunting the night skies. Happy birdwatching!