Owls In Michigan: Here’s 11 Species Of Owls In Michigan

owls in michigan

Have you ever wondered about which types of owls in Michigan you can find? I’ve done a little research and it turns out there are an impressive 11 species in the Great Lakes State. 

The owls of Michigan range from the tiny Northern Saw-whet Owl to the majestic Snowy Owl. In this article, I’ve covered all the basics you need to know. Read this article for more on:

  • Types of owls in Michigan
  • Pictures of owls in Michigan
  • Where to see owls in Michigan

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Owls In Michigan

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Eastern Screech-Owl Megascops asio

types of owls in michigan

Eastern Screech-Owls are a common owl species that can be found in a variety of woodland areas including suburbia. These small owls reach about 10 inches in length and prey on all sorts of small animals.

They are not quite at the top of the food chain, however, and are often hunted by other owls, birds of prey, crows, and other predators. These nocturnal birds have ear tufts and are grayish to reddish in color. Eastern Screech-Owls nest in holes in trees or nest boxes and make a variety of high-pitched calls.


Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus

snowy owls in michigan

At up to 27 inches in length and over 6lbs in weight, the Snowy Owl is one big bird. These owls visit Michigan in the winter months after breeding up north in the arctic. 

The number of these white owls in Michigan varies and the state is usually about as far south as they migrate in any given year. Snowy Owls in Michigan are usually attracted to open habitats like fields and along shorelines where dunes are found. 

As far as owls go, these birds are interesting in that they usually hunt in the day, especially in the early morning and early evening. Look out for these birds on the ground, telephone poles, and other open perches like fence posts.

Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus

pictures of owls in michigan

One of the more common species in the state is the Great Horned Owl. Michigan is great country for these birds, providing plenty of good habitats for them to hunt and breed in.

Great Horned Owls are huge, impressive birds that grow up to 25 inches long, and can weigh over 5lbs. These birds take on all sorts of prey, from crawling bugs right up to animals bigger than themselves.

These birds prefer to nest in the unused nests of other large birds, but they will also nest in large nest boxes. In Michigan, these birds can be seen at any time of the year.

Barred Owl Strix varia

white owls in michigan

Barred Owls are another common and widespread owl found in Michigan. These birds are found in conifer forests and woodlands where pairs can be heard uttering their distinctive ‘who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?’ call.

Barred Owls hunt from trees by watching for movement on the ground below. Once locked onto a target, like a mouse, they swoop down to capture their prey.

These owls, which have deep dark eyes and yellow bills, breed in the state and are present throughout the year.

Northern Saw-whet Owl Aegolius acadicus

michigan owls

Of all the Michigan owls, the prize for the smallest goes to the Northern Saw-whet Owl. In some parts of the state, these owls can be seen throughout the year. In the north, they are more likely to be seen in the summer, while in the south your best chance would be the cold months of winter.

These birds can be pretty tough to spot, even though they are common in well-wooded and forested areas.

Don’t let this pretty bird’s size fool you, they are expert hunters and catch prey as big as rodents and small birds. Northern Saw-whet Owls are another owl species that might breed in a nest box of the right size.

Long-eared Owl Asio otus

great horned owl michigan

Long-eared Owls breed in central Michigan and can be seen there all through the year, although birders in the north may have to wait for the summer months to see these birds. In the south, these owls are more likely to be seen in the winter.

Long-eared Owls got their name for good reason, these birds have long, dark ear tufts, a greyish body, and rust-red faces and wing patches. These owls stand tall and slender at about 15 inches long and 15oz in weight.

These birds hunt for rodents and small birds by flying slowly over open areas. Long-eared Owls are not easy to spot because they roost high in trees and are only active after dark.

Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus

owls of michigan

Although the Short-eared Owl has been seen at various locations in Michigan from north to south, this bird is very rare in the Great Lakes State. These birds prefer open habitats where they hunt for rodents before dark.

Look for these birds in marshes or grassland areas. This species doesn’t do very much calling and is most likely to be heard in spring. These ground-nesting owls are medium-sized, at about 16 inches long and 13oz in weight.

Great Gray Owl Strix nebulosa

owls of michigan

The magnificent Great Grey Owl is another Michigan owl that isn’t seen very often. These birds do, however, turn up in the north of the state from time to time. 

These birds use their excellent hearing to pounce on their rodent prey, often through a thick layer of snow. Although not as heavy as the Great-Horned Owl or the Snowy Owl, these birds are greater in length, measuring an impressive 30 inches or more.

Northern Hawk Owl Surnia ulula

owls of michigan

Northern Hawk Owls are boldly marked little owls, appearing almost black and white in color, with piercing pale yellow eyes. These fast-flying birds are diurnal (active in the daytime) and hunt by swooping in on birds and rodents from their perch in a tree.

Unfortunately, these owls are not common at all in Michigan, being a species of the forests of Canada and Alaska.


Boreal Owl Aegolius funereus

owls in michigan

The Boreal Owl is a small but solidly built hunter with a flat-topped head and bright yellow eyes. These nocturnal predators feed on rodents, small birds, and insects which they catch by swooping down from their perch.

Another rare visitor from the north, these beautiful little owls occasionally wander down into Michigan.


Barn Owl Tyto alba

owls in michigan

Barn Owls are residents in Michigan but unfortunately in very low numbers. These birds occur only in the south of the state.


Tips For Spotting Owls

Owls are not the easiest birds to find out there in their natural habitat but then that’s what makes looking for owls so fun. Here are a few tips for owl-spotting:

  • Listen out for agitated birds. Often other birds will gang up on roosting owls in the daytime, making a lot of noise and attempting to chase these predators away.
  • Go for a walk at dusk. Look out for owls perched in prominent places like rooftops and bare trees.
  • Know which owls are likely to be in your area in any given season. Looking for a specific type of owl in its favorite habitat always delivers the best results.
  • Listen out for calling owls on still nights, this is a good way to know if there are indeed owls in the area.

Where To Spot Owls In Michigan

Michigan is an excellent state for bird watching. The northern parts of the state, the upper peninsula, in particular, is an excellent place to spot the northern owls that are otherwise difficult to see in the United States.

  • Pointe Mouillee State Game Area is a great place to look for owls in Michigan. Eastern Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Snowy Owl, Long-eared Owl, and the Short-eared Owl can all be seen here. Barn Owl used to be seen in this area, hopefully they will return.
  • Isle Royale National Park is an excellent destination for the more adventurous birdwatcher. All of Michigan’s owl species except for the Snowy Owl, Barn Owl, and Eastern Screech-Owl have been seen here.
  • Seney National Wildlife Refuge Is a great place to look out for all the owls of Michigan, except for maybe the Eastern Screech-owl and Barn Owls that have not been seen here.

Final Thoughts

With up to 11 different types of owls in Michigan, The Great Lakes State is a wonderful place to look for owls. Use this article and my tips for spotting owls to go out there and find these awesome hunting birds. Happy birdwatching!


4 thoughts on “Owls In Michigan: Here’s 11 Species Of Owls In Michigan”

  1. Our condominium association is interested in establishing a small cluster of an appropriate breed of owl in our area. We are in Holland, MI. Is there a way to obtain orphaned or rehabilitated owls that we could release and perhaps even build nest boxes for them to inhabit?

    • It’s great to hear that your condominium association is interested in establishing a small cluster of owls in your area! However, it’s important to keep in mind that owls are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in the United States, which makes it illegal to take or possess them without a permit. It is also not recommended to release rehabilitated owls back into the wild in a specific location, as they may not be familiar with the area and could have trouble adjusting to their new environment.

      If you are interested in supporting owls in your area, there are other ways to do so that do not involve obtaining and releasing owls. One option is to provide suitable habitat for owls, such as by installing nest boxes in appropriate locations. You can also work to protect natural areas and minimize disturbance to wildlife in your community.

      Another option is to support local wildlife rehabilitation centers that work with injured and orphaned owls. These centers can provide care and rehabilitation for owls in need, and may offer educational programs and outreach to help promote conservation efforts.

      I would recommend contacting local wildlife organizations and rehabilitation centers in your area for more information on how you can support owls and other wildlife in your community. They may be able to provide guidance on suitable habitat and conservation practices, as well as opportunities to get involved in community-based conservation efforts.


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