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Owls in Florida you need to know | BirdsJournal

Mackenzie Gary



Do you also live in Florida? And want to know what Owls live here and how you can maximize the chances to get a slight glance of them? Along with a few tips to attract them to visit your backyard? If yes, then this article is for you. Owls in Florida are some of the most fascinating birds of all. They have a very aggressive nature, and when it comes to their territory, they are known for kicking other birds out of their nest boxes and making others’ nest boxes their own. In fact, they can also face birds twice their size without any hesitation or doubt.

Other than that, Owls in Florida are most dangerous when they are short on food supplies. For instance, they can also carry a cat, baby deer, snake and several other mammals. And for eating, they start with taking their head off. Therefore, they are never considered to be pet birds. However, attracting a few of them to your backyard may not be a life threat for someone like you, still, they will not let any other bird visit your backyard, and if you have other pets especially cats, then it may become their potential target.

In total, 7 types of owls live in Florida, and most of them live here for their entire life span without migrating. Consequently, most owls are common to be spotted. And following is the list of those owls along with a detailed description.

7 Types of Owls in Florida:

Here is the list of owls in Florida you will love to get knowledge about.

  1. Barn Owl
  2. Eastern Screech Owl
  3. Great Horned Owl
  4. Burrowing Owl
  5. Barred Owl
  6. Short-Eared Owl
  7. Northern Saw-Whet Owl

1. Barn Owl:

Most Barn Owls like to live in barns. Therefore, they are called Barn Owls. They are one of the most distinctive owls among all seven species that you can see in Florida. Moreover, they are also rare to spot there. When it comes to their appearance, it has a large white heart-shaped face along with a pale bill and dark eyes contrasting. Barn Owls usually have grey coloured and slightly longer legs than other easy-to-spot owls in Florida. Barn Owls also have dark spots on their chests and belly.

For nesting, Barn Owls prefer to have their nests in abandoned caves, empty barns or tree cavities. Therefore, if you are also looking for a chance to see them, you are most likely to see one in open areas. Despite being a rare bird to spot in Florida, you can still spot them in agricultural sites, fields, and marshes. Furthermore, they are completely nocturnal. Thus, you should not be expecting to see them flying in the daytime. 

By nature, Barn Owls are wild birds. Their feathers are not designed stroking as it damages their natural waterproofing. Other than that, they have strong feet and sharp talons that can easily cause deep scratches and puncture wounds. Plus, your furniture will also be at risk with these talons. Barn Owls in Florida also consider humans as competitors for their potential mates. Thus, they mostly also get aggressive. And during mating season, they get very noisy all night. Therefore, anyone with the right frame of mind would not go for having one. Instead of capturing them in a cage, you should enjoy having to see their glances out in the wild. 

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2. Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owls in Florida are robin-sized birds with a length of 6.3 – 9.8 inches. And wingspan of 18.9 – 24 inches. They are stocky and short birds in size with a big head and apparently no neck. Mostly, you will see them in reddish-brown (rufous) or grey colour with yellow eyes. Moreover, their colour patterns also make them excellent camouflage in front of tree barks. 

These owls are native to the Eastern United States. Thus, you can see them in Florida throughout the year. Usually, they do not like to migrate much too. So, if you see them in one place, you can expect to be at the same spot regularly. They like to live in tree cavities. Yet, they do not carve those trees by themselves. Moreover, they can also live in nest boxes. This is a good sign, especially if you want to attract them to your backyard. Moreover, if the nest box is already used by another bird, the female owl will form the debris into a cup shape. This way, they will be able to fit their eggs and body within the nest. Still, they never add nesting material to it. 

They readily accept the pre-built nest boxes. Therefore, you should get one in your backyard before their breeding season starts. With this approach, you are likely to attract at least 1 breeding pair. Furthermore, to keep them there for long, you should also guard their eggs. And once, you get a breeding pair in your backyard’s nest, they will stay for a long time because Eastern Screech Owls do not like to migrate much. 

To see them in wild, the best approach would be to search for them on sunny days and trace their voices. Because most of the owls stay in their nests sleeping at that time. 

3. Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owls are slightly larger than regular red-tailed hawks. Having a length of around 18.1 – 24.8 inches and a wingspan of 39.8 – 57.1 inches. They have reddish-brown faces along with a grey-brown body. However, their colour tones also vary a little according to the region they live in. 

In South Florida, their breeding season starts in late winter. Usually, it begins in the first few days of December. For their courtship display, the male owl brings food to their prospective mate. Besides, they can also make their nest by themselves. Still, in most cases, they prefer to live in used nests made by big sized birds. Furthermore, if the nest is still occupied by large-sized birds, they expel them out of the nest. In fact, birds like bald eagles also choose to surrender their nest, instead of risking a fight with them. 

Like most other owls, you should not pet Great Horned Owl because of several reasons. For instance, you would need a huge space for them. Plus, you can not teach them any tricks or table manners. And even if they spend most of their lifespan with you, they will still have a wild nature. And especially, if you are living in the US with a Great Horned Owl as your pet, you must be trained for it with a license, and if you are not trained, you would have to face penalties of up to $15,000. 

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4. Burrowing Owl

Burrowing owls are quite distinctive as compared to most other owls in Florida. You can easily identify them with their long legs and sandy pale spots on their upper body. Their breast has slightly dark brown bars along with bold white eyebrows and throat. 

These are migratory birds in Florida. They spend most of the winter in Central America and Southern Mexico. As compared to most owls in Florida, their lifespan is much shorter as an average owl lives up to 35 years in the wild. In contrast, an average Burrowing Owl has a lifespan of only 9 years. 

Moreover, these are not the birds you should be wishing to see in your backyard. Instead, if you see one on your way remember that you should keep your distance from them because if they are not having enough feed, they can attack anyone. They are also known for carrying and eating small mammal animals as those mammals include cats, deers, and many more. However, such events mostly happen in rural areas. Still, if you ever heard their voice in your area, keeping your cats in your home would be the best approach. However, if they feel threatened, they can also mimic the rattle snake’s voice.

Unlike most owls, Burrowing Owls act actively both at day and night times. They do most of the hunting at dusk and dawn times. Furthermore, they either sleep in the middle of the night or right after sunrise. 

5. Barred Owls

Barred Owl’s size is in between Great Horned Owl and Barn Owl. Their average length is 16.9 – 19.7 inches along with a wingspan of 39.0 – 43.3 inches. Most of their body is covered with white and brown spots. Moreover, their underparts are also covered with vertical brown bars. 

They do not migrate much and spend most of their lifespan without migrating to Florida. Therefore, it is one of the most common owls you are going to see here. Moreover, for research, 158 Barred owls were banded and observed closely. Surprisingly, none of them moved more than 6 miles. So, if you manage to get a pair of them in your backyard once, they are going to stay there for long. And to make that possible, you should get a nest box with an old tree. Also, try to put it a little before their breeding season starts. 

However, if you like to see a variety of birds in your garden, attracting a barred owl there or keeping them as a pet would not be the best idea. As barred owls in Florida have an aggressive nature, they do not like to see other birds near their nests and are likely to attack them. 

6. Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared Owls are crow-sized owls. Their average length is 13.4 – 16.9 inches and a wingspan of 33.5 – 40.5 inches. You will see them with medium brown and white spots on their upper part. Their faces are pale in colours, and the black stroke around their yellow eyes makes them more noticeable. What else makes them noticeable? They can turn their head upside down up to 270 degrees.

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If you want to see them, you should head towards their habitat areas. As they do not travel much, once you see their nest, it is likely to be their home for several years to come. You would have a greater chance to see one in winter. Look for them in open fields such as airports or grasslands. Moreover, start your search at dusk or dawn. This way, you may find them sitting on the ground or flying very low. 

It is another type of owl that you would not want to have in your backyard. They often live in ground nests and defend their nests aggressively. It does not matter what comes in their way, either an animal or human, they will attack them without a second thought. Still, you should enjoy the moment you get a glance at them in wild.

7. Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owls are small-sized owls with a large rounded head. Their length is 7.1 – 8.3 inches and 16.5-18.9 inches with wingspan. They are marked with brown spots with a white facial disk on their head. Their eyes are yellow with a black stroke around them. 

They mostly live in Northern Florida. Even though they live here throughout the year without migrating, they are one of the rarest owls to spot in Florida. However, you can easily recognize them with their round head and big eyes. 

To give yourself the best chance to catch a glimpse of Northern Saw-whet Owls, you should learn about their call and search for them at night time. Lucky for you, they have a unique voice like a blade being sharpened with a sharpening stone. Due to this voice, they are known as “Saw-Whet” Owls. The best season is in between late winter and early summer to spot them. During this season, they tend to call a lot frequently, so pay extra attention to their call around this especially season in the nighttime. 


Owls are distinctive from any other bird on this planet. Therefore, most people find them interesting. And, having a quick glance at them would be a great moment to have. Moreover, if you find their nest boxes, it means you have found the place where they will be staying for the next couple of years because they do not move much. Other than that, you can also attract a pair of owls to your backyard with a few tips, but they will not allow any other bird to visit you. Therefore, most people do not consider it to be a great decision. Plus, if their feed is not enough, they can also attack small mammals. However, if you want to control rodents in your garden or area, attracting a few owls with some boxes can be very effective.