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14 Owls In Oregon – Every Species You Can See

Owls in Oregon

Oregon is a fantastic state for owls! 15 owl species have been recorded in Oregon and several are common!

Great Horned Owls and Western Screech-Owls occur throughout the state, Burrowing Owls live in dry habitats, and the huge Great Gray Owls live in the northwestern part of the state. Several other species live in the state’s beautiful forests including the threatened Spotted Owl.

Which owls are common species in Oregon? Which owls are rare?

 

From Common Owls To Rare Vagrants

In order to get answers to our questions, we leaned on eBird data to figure out how common each owl is. Oregon is a hotspot for owls with its dense forests!

 

Great Horned Owl

Great-Horned Owl
  • Range: Permanent resident in much of Alaska, Canada, and the USA.
  • Length: 22 inches
  • Wingspan: 44 inches
  • Call: Makes a low, gruff, “hooo, hoo hoo hoo hoooo”.

The Great Horned Owl is a big, bulky owl with big ear tufts and a black beak. It is mottled gray and brown, has a rufous or gray face, and fine black barring on its underparts. This owl also has a white throat and some dark marks on its breast.

Males and female Great Horned Owls look the same but females are larger. They also have a medium-length tail with dark bands, and long, broad wings.

This nocturnal owl species lives in every possible habitat, including urban areas, so it’s no surprise they are the most common owls in Oregon.

Key Identifications:

  • Big, bulky brown or gray owl with ear tufts and fine barring on its underparts.
  • Nests in old stick nests of other large birds, on ledges, and in other situations.
  • Watches from a perch or glides over open habitats at night, to catch mammals and some birds on the ground.

 

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Photograph © Greg Lavaty.

  • Range: A permanent resident in most forested areas in Canada, parts of some Pacific Northwestern states, and most of the eastern USA.
  • Length: 21 inches
  • Wingspan: 42 inches
  • Call: Makes loud hooting and caterwalling sounds, “Who cooks for you?! Who cooks for youaaaal!”

The Barred Owl is a medium to large owl with a round head and a narrow black border on its pale gray face. It has dark brown upperparts with white markings, and dark brown streaks on its belly.

This species also has a yellowish beak and dark eyes. Both sexes look the same except that females are a bit larger than males.

The Barred Owl flaps and glides on big, broad wings. It also has a medium-length, broad tail with a few dark brown bands.

You can find Barred Owls in deciduous and coniferous forest and woodlands.

Key Identifications:

  • Big owl with a round head that has white marks on dark brown upperparts, and dark brown streaks on pale underparts.
  • Perches and swoops through wooded areas at night but can also be active in the day.
  • Nests in tree cavities and in abandoned nests of crows and hawks.
  • Catches a wide variety of small animals.

 

Northern Pygmy-Owl

Northern Pygmy Owl
  • Range: Permanent resident in the southern half of British Columbia and parts of Alberta, and in mountains and coastal forests of the western USA.
  • Length: 6.75 inches
  • Wingspan: 12 inches
  • Call: Makes a single, well-spaced, whistled “Toot!” call.

The Northern Pygmy Owl is a small, grayish-brown owl with two large black marks on the back of its head. It also has small white spots on its head, breast, and flanks, a longish banded tail, and dark streaking below.

Both sexes of this small owl look the same but females are slightly larger than males.

This uncommon diurnal owl lives in oak and coniferous forest habitats.

Key Identifications:

  • Small, dark brown owl with two black marks on the back of its round head, dark brown streaks on pale underparts, and longish dark tail with narrow white bands.
  • Lives in forest habitats in western Canada and the western USA south to northern Central America.
  • Nests in old woodpecker holes and natural tree cavities. It can also use nest boxes.
  • Watches from a perch before flying out to catch small birds during the day.

 

Western Screech-Owl

Western Screech-Owl
  • Range: Permanent resident in British Columbia and the western USA.
  • Length: 8.5 inches
  • Wingspan: 20 inches
  • Call: Has a “bouncing ball” song of short notes, “whup…whup..whu,whu,whu,whu,waa”.

The Western Screech Owl is a small brown or gray owl with ear tufts. It has “V”-shaped pale eyebrows, and some black on the edge of its face. This owl also has mottled upperparts with some white marks, and pale underparts with dark barring and streaks.

Males and females look similar but females are a bit larger. This species also has broad, rounded wings and a broad tail.

This nocturnal owl species lives in a wide variety of woodland and open habitats.

Key Identifications:

  • Small, brownish or gray owl with ear tufts, a black border on the edge of its face, some dark streaks and markings on its underparts, and some white marks on its shoulder.
  • Lives in many wooded and forest habitats.
  • Nests in tree cavities and nest boxes.
  • Watches from a perch before flying to catch small animals on the ground and from vegetation at night.

 

Barn Owl

Barn Owl
  • Range: In Canada, occurs mostly in southwestern British Columbia. In the USA, they live in many areas but are absent from mountains and cold, northern regions. They range north to Washington, Nebraska, Iowa, and New York.
  • Length: 16 inches
  • Wingspan: 42 inches
  • Call: A shrill, loud, hissing “shriiiiii!”

The Barn Owl is a medium to large, pale owl with golden tan and gray upperparts, and white underparts. It has a distinctive, white, heart-shaped face.

Both sexes are alike but females are a bit larger than males and have buff on their chest.

In flight, Barn Owls look like a large, pale, moth-like bird with a big, rounded head.

This owl hunts in grasslands, farms, and other open habitats.

Key Identifications:

  • Large pale owl with a heart-shaped face.
  • Glides and flutters over fields and other open areas at night.
  • Nests in tree cavities, crevices in church steeples and other structures, and next boxes.
  • Preys on rats and other small animals.

 

Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl
  • Range: Summer resident in Alaska, Canada, and the western and central USA. Northern birds migrate to the USA, south to California and Texas.
  • Length: 15 inches
  • Wingspan: 38 inches
  • Call: Makes a hoarse, raspy, cat-like call, “rehw”.

The Short-eared Owl is a medium-sized, pale brown owl with dark eye patches on a pale face. They have a dark breast and streaks on pale underparts. This species has long wings with buff wing patches.

Both sexes look similar but females are a bit larger and usually darker and buffier.

This owl is active day and night in open fields.

Key Identifications:

  • Medium-sized pale brown and buffy owl with very short ear tufts.
  • Dark eye patches on a pale face and long wings with buff patches near the wingtips.
  • Nests on the ground in dense vegetation.
  • Glides over open fields to catch small animals on the ground.

 

Burrowing Owl

Pair of Burrowing Owls

© Alan D. Wilson

  • Range: Summer resident in central-southern Canada, the Great Plains, and much of the western USA. Permanent resident in California, Texas, and Florida.
  • Length: 9.5 inches
  • Wingspan: 21 inches
  • Call: Makes a raspy, chattering call, “rap, rip,rip,rip,rip”, and a quail-like, “whup waaah!”.

The Burrowing Owl is a small, long-legged owl with a white throat and white eyebrows. It has a round head, is dark brown with white spots above, and has pale underparts with dark barring.

Males and females look alike although females are a bit larger. Young birds are uniform dark brown and buff. Adult Burrowing Owls in Florida are more heavily marked below than western birds.

The Burrowing Owl is active day and night in grasslands and other open habitats.

Key Identifications:

  • Small, long-legged owl with a round head, and some brown barring on pale underparts.
  • Lives in grasslands and other wide-open habitats.
  • Nests in burrows made by prairie dogs and other animals although birds in Florida make their own burrows.
  • Catch small animals on the ground at any time of the day or night.

 

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl
  • Range: Lives in coniferous and mixed hardwood forests of Alaska, a large area of Canada, and parts of the northern and western USA.
  • Length: 8 inches
  • Wingspan: 17 inches
  • Call: Makes a repeated tooting whistle call, over and over, “tu, tu, tu, tu, tu, tu, tu, tu, tu”.

The Northern Saw-whet Owl is a small, dark brown owl with a round head and brown streaks on white underparts. It also has some pale streaks on its head, a brown and white face, and some white spotting on its back.

Both sexes look the same but females are a bit larger. This species also has yellow eyes, a dark beak, longish, rounded wings, and a short, broad tail.

This nocturnal owl lives in forested habitats.

Key Identifications:

  • Small, dark brown owl with a round head, broad white eyebrows, and thick dark streaks on pale underparts.
  • Occurs in dense coniferous and mixed forest.
  • Nests in old woodpecker holes and can use nest boxes.
  • Swoops down to catch insects and small animals at night.

 

Great Gray Owl (rare)

Great Gray Owl

© Alan D. Wilson

  • Range: Permanent resident in Alaska, northern Canada east to Ontario, and in the northern Rocky Mountains south to Yellowstone. Some birds winter in the northern USA and southeastern Canada.
  • Length: 27 inches
  • Wingspan: 52 inches
  • Call: Makes ten, low hoot calls, the first and final notes lower than the others, “woot…hoo..hoo..hoo..hoo..hoo..hoo..hoo..hoo..hoo”.

The Great Gray Owl is a huge owl with a big, round head, and is dark gray with some pale mottling. It has a narrow black border on its face and two white marks on its throat.

Both sexes of the Great Gray Owl look the same although females are larger. They have yellow eyes, a yellowish beak, and a broad, medium-length tail.

This owl species also has long, broad wings with dark barring and a buffy patch near the wingtips.

Great Gray Owls like boreal forests with open areas.

Key Identifications:

  • Huge, dark gray owl with a big round head, and two small white patches on its throat.
  • Lives in boreal forests with bogs and other openings.
  • Nests in old raptor nests and on platforms.
  • Catches voles and other small rodents on the ground.

 

Long-eared Owl

Long-eared Owl
  • Range: Migrant in southern Canada, resident and winters in much of the USA. Absent from parts of the Pacific Northwest and southeastern states.
  • Length: 15 inches
  • Wingspan: 36 inches
  • Call: Makes a single, one second long “Hooo!” call at regular intervals.

The Long-eared Owl is a medium-sized, slender owl with long ear tufts. It has an orange face, is mottled gray above, and has dark brown streaks and marks on pale underparts. This owl also has long wings with a rufous patch in its primaries.

Male and female Long-eared Owls look similar but females are larger. This owl species also has yellow eyes, and some pale markings between its eyes and around its dark beak.

This nocturnal owl frequents coniferous woodlands near meadows. Some birds stay only for breeding, while others can be seen throughout the year.

Key Identifications:

  • Medium-sized, slender owl species with long ear tufts, orange on its face, and long wings with an orange-brown patch near the wingtips.
  • Occurs in coniferous and mixed forests near meadows, bogs, and other open areas.
  • Nests in old crow, magpie, and hawk nests.
  • Glides over open habitats near forest at night to catch small animals on the ground.

 

Spotted Owl

Pair of Spotted Owls

Photograph © Greg Lavaty

  • Range: A permanent resident in the Pacific Northwest, the Sierra Nevada, and mountains in the southwestern USA.
  • Length: 17.5 inches
  • Wingspan: 40 inches
  • Call: Makes abrupt, bark-like hoots, “whoot….oot oot..hoo…whew”.

The Spotted Owl is a medium-sized owl with a round head, dark eyes, and a narrow black border on its pale brown face. It also has dark brown upperparts with pale markings, and dark brown and white spotting on its underparts.

Males and females look the same but females are a bit larger. This species also has broad wings and dark bands on its broad tail.

This relatively uncommon, nocturnal owl lives in mature coniferous and oak forests.

Key Identifications:

  • Medium-sized, dark brown owl with white spotting on its back and flanks, and a round head.
  • Lives in mature forest and woodlands.
  • Nests in old raptor nests, in tree cavities, and on top of broken off trees.
  • Watches from a perch before flying down to catch small animals on the ground, at night.

 

Flammulated Owl

Flammulated Owl
  • Range: Summer resident in a small area of southern British Columbia, and in mountains in the western USA.
  • Length: 6.75 inches
  • Wingspan: 16 inches
  • Call: Makes one, low-pitched “woot” call at regular, well-spaced intervals.

The Flammulated Owl is a small, thrush-sized owl with short ear tufts and dark eyes. It is mottled gray and reddish brown with pale eyebrows and some white spotting. This owl also has thick black streaks on mottled gray and white underparts.

Males and females look the same although females are a bit bigger. This species also has long wings and a short, broad tail.

Flammulated Owls breed in Oregon but move further south for winter.

Key Identifications:

  • Small, mottled gray and reddish-brown owl with ear tufts and dark eyes.
  • Breeds and winters in montane forest habitats.
  • Nests in old woodpecker holes.
  • Picks moths and other insects from foliage in flight, at night.

 

Snowy Owl (rare)

Snowy Owl
  • Range: Summer resident in northern Alaska and northern Canada. It winters in Canada and the northern USA.
  • Length: 23 inches
  • Wingspan: 52 inches
  • Call: Usually quiet but occasionally makes a low, gruff call, “whew…whuh”.

The Snowy Owl is a big, mostly white owl with a round head and yellow eyes. Some males are mostly white but most have some small dark marks. Females and young birds have white faces and varying degrees of black barring.

Females are a bit larger than males and have more black markings than males. Snowy Owls also have long, broad wings and a broad tail.

This owl species is active during the day and lives in wide-open habitats. Snowy Owls can be spotted in Oregon, so keep your eyes peeled!

Key Identifications:

  • Big white owl with a round head, and varying degrees of black or dark gray barring and spots.
  • Lives in tundra and winters in wide open habitats.
  • Nests on the ground, on elevated spots in Arctic tundra.
  • Watches from a perch and glides low to catch small animals on the ground.

 

Boreal Owl (rare)

Boreal Owl

Boreal Owl

  • Range: A permanent resident in a large part of Canada, Alaska, and parts of the Cascades and Rocky Mountains. Some migrate to southern Canada and the northern USA. Common in %STATE%.
  • Length: 10 inches
  • Wingspan: 21 inches
  • Call: Makes a slightly rising, rapid serious of twelve brief hoot notes, “too, too, too, too, tu, tu, tu, tu, tu, tu, tu, tu”.

The Boreal Owl is a small owl species with a round or square-shaped head, and white face with a broken black border. It is dark brown with white spotting and has a black and white head.

Males and females look alike although females are larger. This species also has yellow eyes, and a pale beak. Juvenile birds are mostly dark brown.

Boreal Owls have a few pale narrow bands on a broad tail, and glide on long, broad wings.

The Boreal Owl mostly occurs in cold, boreal, and montane forests; Oregon is not too far away from their natural range, there are some birds living here year-round.

Key Identifications:

  • Small, dark brown and white owl with white spotting and a squared, black and white head.
  • Lives in boreal and montane forest, some also winter at lower elevations and just south of its breeding range.
  • Nests in old woodpecker holes and nest boxes.
  • Watches from a perch before swooping down onto small animals at night.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most common owl in Oregon?

The most common owl in Oregon is the Great Horned Owl.

What kind of owls live on the Oregon coast?

Several kinds of owls live on the Oregon coast. There are Great Horned Owls, and Northern Pygmy-Owls and Western Screech-Owls in the coastal forests.

What is the largest owl in Oregon?

The largest owl in Oregon is the Great Gray Owl. This owl species is 27 inches long and has a wingspan longer than four feet!

Are owls legal in Oregon?

No, owls are not legal in Oregon. You cannot keep an owl as a pet in this state.

About the Author

Patrick O'Donnell

Patrick O'Donnell has been focused on all things avian since the age of 7. Since then, he has helped with ornithological field work in the USA and Peru, and has guided many birding tours, especially in Costa Rica. He develops birding apps for BirdingFieldGuides and loves to write about birds, especially in his adopted country of Costa Rica.

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