Owls in Florida: 15 Species To Look Out For

If you want to experience Florida’s amazing biodiversity, look no further than its owls. From the powerful Great Horned Owl to the adorable Eastern Screech Owl, these nocturnal birds are a delight to watch and learn about. But they are also essential for Florida’s ecosystems, as they control rodent populations and protect delicate habitats. By exploring the world of owls in Florida, you will discover their incredible stories and their important roles in the state’s natural heritage.

Contents

1. Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio)

Our owl journey begins with a true Floridian native, the Eastern Screech Owl, a master of disguise. These little owls are available in two color morphs: red and gray, making them professionals at blending in. After dusk, their haunting, tremolo-like sounds can be heard echoing through Florida’s woodlands.

Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio)
AspectInformation
Species NameEastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio)
Number of Eggs Owls LayTypically 2 to 6 eggs
Incubation Period for Owl EggsApproximately 26 to 35 days
Owl’s DietSmall mammals, birds, insects, and other prey
HabitatForests, woodlands, parks, and suburban areas
MigrationMostly non-migratory, but some individuals may migrate
Body SizeLength: 6.3 to 9.8 inches (16 to 25 cm)
Body Weight4 to 8 ounces (113 to 227 grams)
DangerousGenerally not dangerous to humans
Maximum Flight HeightTypically fly within the tree canopy, not at high altitudes
LifespanIn the wild, typically up to 10 years or more

Owl Lifespan

2. Barred Owl (Strix varia)

Known for their catchphrase “Who cooks for you?” Who cooks for you all?” With their hooting sounds, Barred Owls are common denizens of Florida’s woodlands and wetlands. These huge, brown-eyed owls are popular among birdwatchers and nature lovers.

Barred Owl (Strix varia)

AspectInformation
Scientific NameStrix varia
Number of EggsTypically 2-4 eggs
Egg-Laying IntervalOnce a year
DietPrimarily small mammals, birds, and amphibians
HabitatDense forests, swamps, and wooded areas
MigrationGenerally non-migratory
Body SizeLength: 16-25 inches (40-63 cm), Wingspan: 38-49 inches (96-125 cm)
Weight1.0 to 2.3 pounds (450 to 1,050 grams)
Dangerous to HumansNot considered dangerous to humans
Maximum Flight HeightTypically flies at tree top level
LifespanAbout 10-15 years in the wild

Owl Legs

3. Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

The eerie white Barn Owl hunts at night, stealthily flying over broad fields and marshes in pursuit of rodents. Their heart-shaped facial discs and their raspy screeches set them apart from other owls.

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
AspectInformation
Scientific NameTyto alba
Number of EggsTypically 4-7 eggs
Incubation PeriodApproximately 29-34 days
DietMainly small mammals such as mice and rats
HabitatVarious, including farmlands, grasslands, barns
MigrationTypically not migratory; resident birds
Body SizeLength: 12-16 inches (30-40 cm)
WeightTypically 14-24 ounces (400-700 grams)
Danger LevelNot dangerous to humans
Maximum Flight AltitudeUsually low to the ground, not very high
LifespanUp to 10-20 years in the wild

4. Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)

The Great Horned Owl is an apex predator in Florida’s ecosystems, with remarkable tufted “horns” and piercing yellow eyes. Their powerful hoots are a hallmark of the wild Florida nights, where they are one of the state’s largest owl species.

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
AspectInformation
Scientific NameBubo virginianus
Number of Eggs LaidTypically 2 to 3 eggs
Incubation PeriodAbout 30 to 37 days
DietSmall mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects
HabitatDiverse habitats including forests, deserts, and urban areas
MigrationNo, it is generally non-migratory
Body SizeLength: 18-27 inches (45-68 cm) Wingspan: 3.3-4.8 feet (1-1.5 meters)
Weight2-5.5 pounds (0.9-2.5 kg)
Dangerous to HumansTypically not dangerous, but can be aggressive when defending nests
Maximum Flight HeightCan fly at varying heights, usually below 100 feet (30 meters)
LifespanTypically up to 10-15 years in the wild

5. Eastern Whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus)

Because of its nocturnal activities, the Whip-poor-will is frequently misidentified as an owl. During warm Florida evenings, these insectivorous birds emit a haunting chorus of “whip-poor-will” sounds.

Eastern Whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus)
AspectInformation
Scientific NameAntrostomus vociferus
Number of EggsTypically 2 eggs
Incubation PeriodAbout 19-20 days
DietInsects, especially moths and beetles
HabitatForests, woodlands, open fields
MigrationYes, they are migratory birds
Body SizeLength: 7-9 inches (18-23 cm)
WeightApproximately 1.2-1.8 ounces (34-50 grams)
Danger LevelNot considered dangerous to humans
Maximum Flight AltitudeThey usually fly low to the ground
Lifespan5-9 years in the wild

6. Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)

Burrowing in Florida Owls are well known for their unusual habit of dwelling in underground burrows rather than in trees. They are frequently found in open areas and are fairly small in comparison to their owl relatives.

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)
AspectInformation
Scientific NameAthene cunicularia
Number of EggsTypically 6-12 eggs
Incubation PeriodAbout 28-30 days
DietInsects, small mammals, and reptiles
HabitatGrasslands, deserts, agricultural areas
MigrationMostly non-migratory, some populations may migrate
Body SizeLength: 7.5-11 inches (19-28 cm)
WeightApproximately 4-6 ounces (115-170 grams)
Danger LevelNot considered dangerous to humans
Maximum Flight AltitudeThey typically fly at low altitudes
LifespanTypically 6-8 years in the wild

7. Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)

Short-eared Owls are elusive visitors to Florida’s grasslands and marshes throughout the winter. Their striking facial disks and the tendency to fly low over fields at dusk make them a sight to behold.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
AspectInformation
Scientific NameAsio flammeus
Number of EggsTypically 4-7 eggs
Incubation PeriodAbout 21-24 days
DietMainly small mammals (voles, mice), birds, and insects
HabitatOpen grasslands, marshes, and wetlands
MigrationYes, they are migratory birds
Body SizeLength: 13-17 inches (33-43 cm), Wingspan: 33-43 inches (85-110 cm)
WeightApproximately 7.5-17.5 ounces (210-495 grams)
Danger LevelNot considered dangerous to humans
Maximum Flight AltitudeThey typically fly at low to medium altitudes
Lifespan4-6 years in the wild

8. Long-eared Owl (Asio otus)

Long-eared Owls, which favor wooded areas and have long ear tufts, are uncommon in Florida. They blend very well with the trees and are more commonly heard than seen.

Long-eared Owl (Asio otus)
AspectInformation
Scientific NameAsio otus
Number of EggsUsually 4-5 eggs
Incubation PeriodApproximately 26-28 days
DietMainly rodents, small mammals, and birds
HabitatWoodlands, forests, and open country
MigrationYes, they are migratory birds
Body SizeLength: 13-16 inches (33-40 cm)
WeightTypically 9.3-16 ounces (265-455 grams)
Danger LevelNot considered dangerous to humans
Maximum Flight AltitudeThey usually fly at low to medium heights
Lifespan10-15 years in the wild

9. Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)

Named after their repetitive “saw-whet” calls, Northern Saw-whet Owls are secretive, small owls found in Florida’s forests. These elusive creatures are a treat for dedicated birdwatchers.

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)
AspectInformation
Scientific NameAegolius acadicus
Number of EggsTypically 4-7 eggs
Incubation PeriodAbout 27-29 days
DietSmall mammals, birds, and insects
HabitatDense forests, coniferous or mixed woodlands
MigrationPartial migration, some migrate south in winter
Body SizeLength: 7-8 inches (18-21 cm)
WeightApproximately 2.3-5.3 ounces (65-150 grams)
Danger LevelNot considered dangerous to humans
Maximum Flight AltitudeThey typically fly at low to medium heights
LifespanUp to 7 years in the wild

10. Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi)

Saw-whet of the North Owls are little, solitary owls that live in Florida’s forests. They get their name from the repeated “saw-whet” sounds they make. Avid birdwatchers will enjoy seeing these scarce species.

Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi)
AspectInformation
Scientific NameMicrathene whitneyi
Number of EggsTypically 2-4 eggs
Incubation PeriodApproximately 21-24 days
DietInsects, especially moths and other small prey
HabitatDesert regions, including saguaro cactus areas
MigrationNo, they are non-migratory birds
Body SizeLength: 5.7-6.7 inches (14.5-17 cm)
WeightApproximately 1.2-1.5 ounces (34-42 grams)
Danger LevelNot considered dangerous to humans
Maximum Flight AltitudeThey typically fly low to the ground
LifespanApproximately 3-5 years in the wild

11. Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)

Snowy Owls are quite rare in Florida. These arctic visitors are occasionally observed during irruption years, causing a stir among the state’s birding community.

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)
AspectInformation
Scientific NameBubo scandiacus
Number of EggsTypically 3-11 eggs
Incubation PeriodAbout 31-33 days
DietMainly lemmings, also other small mammals, birds
HabitatArctic tundra, open grasslands, shorelines
MigrationYes, they are nomadic and may migrate south
Body SizeLength: 20-28 inches (50-71 cm), wingspan up to 5 feet (150 cm)
WeightAdults can weigh between 3.5-6.5 pounds (1.6-3 kg)
Danger LevelGenerally not dangerous to humans
Maximum Flight AltitudeThey usually fly low but can reach higher altitudes
LifespanTypically 9-10 years in the wild

12. Northern Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium gnoma)

The Northern Pygmy Owl, another infrequent visitor, is a little owl with large yellow eyes. These owls are extremely rare to see in Florida.

Northern Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium gnoma)
AspectInformation
Scientific NameGlaucidium gnoma
Number of EggsTypically 2-4 eggs
Incubation PeriodApproximately 28-30 days
DietSmall birds, mammals, and insects
HabitatConiferous and mixed forests, mountainous areas
MigrationNo, they are typically non-migratory birds
Body SizeLength: 6-7 inches (15-18 cm)
WeightApproximately 2.5-3.5 ounces (70-100 grams)
Danger LevelNot considered dangerous to humans
Maximum Flight AltitudeThey usually fly at tree canopy level
Lifespan7-10 years in the wild

13. Flammulated Owl (Psiloscops flammeolus)

Flammulated Owls, as the name implies, are uncommon in Florida. The high-pitched, insect-like sounds of these little, reddish-brown owls are well-known.

Flammulated Owl (Psiloscops flammeolus)
AspectInformation
Scientific NamePsiloscops flammeolus
Number of EggsTypically 2-4 eggs
Incubation PeriodAbout 21-24 days
DietInsects, especially moths, beetles, and other small prey
HabitatConiferous and mixed forests, often in mountainous regions
MigrationYes, they are migratory birds, wintering in Central and South America
Body SizeLength: 6.3-7.5 inches (16-19 cm)
WeightApproximately 1.2-1.8 ounces (34-51 grams)
Danger LevelNot considered dangerous to humans
Maximum Flight AltitudeThey usually fly low to the ground
LifespanTypically 2-3 years in the wild

14. Ferruginous Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium brasilianum)

The Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, found primarily in southern Florida, is a little predator with a rust-colored back and characteristic white “eyebrows.”

Ferruginous Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium brasilianum)
AspectInformation
Scientific NameGlaucidium brasilianum
Number of EggsTypically 2-4 eggs
Incubation PeriodAbout 28-30 days
DietSmall mammals, birds, insects, reptiles
HabitatWoodlands, forests, open scrublands
MigrationGenerally, they are non-migratory birds
Body SizeLength: 6.3-7.1 inches (16-18 cm)
WeightApproximately 2.3-2.8 ounces (65-80 grams)
Danger LevelNot considered dangerous to humans
Maximum Flight AltitudeThey usually fly at low to mid-level altitudes
LifespanAround 7-10 years in the wild

15. Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis)

Finally, the Spotted Owl is an incredibly unusual sight in Florida. These medium-sized owls are distinguished by their distinctive brown and white plumage.

AspectInformation
Scientific NameStrix occidentalis
Number of EggsTypically 2-4 eggs
Incubation PeriodAbout 30-32 days
DietMainly rodents, including flying squirrels, woodrats, and mice
HabitatMature coniferous and mixed-conifer forests
MigrationNo, they are not migratory birds
Body SizeLength: 16-19 inches (41-48 cm), Wingspan: 42-45 inches (107-114 cm)
WeightApproximately 1-1.6 pounds (450-725 grams)
Danger LevelNot considered dangerous to humans
Maximum Flight AltitudeThey typically fly low in forests
LifespanUp to 17-18 years in the wild

Florida Owls Fun Facts

Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio)

  • They come in red and gray color variations.
  • Excellent hunters, Eastern Screech Owls mostly eat insects, small animals, and birds.

Barred Owl (Strix varia):

• Known for their unique hooting call, which is frequently referred to as “Who cooks for you? Who prepares meals for you all?

• They have a round head, pale face, and dark eyes.

Barn Owl (Tyto alba):

• Due to their distinctive wing structure, which muffles sounds during flight, barn owls are silent hunters.

• Due to their ghostly white appearance and heart-shaped face discs, they are the subject of numerous superstitions.

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)

  • One of the biggest owl species in North America is the great horned owl.
  • Their obvious “horns” and tufts of feathers on their heads—which are not actually horns—have given them their name.

Eastern Whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus):

  • During the breeding season, these birds are renowned for their repeating “whip-poor-will” call..
  • hey are nocturnal and eat flying insects that they catch in the air.

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)

  • Burrowing owls are distinctive because they build their nests in tunnels created by other creatures like prairie dogs or tortoises..
  •  Since they are nocturnal, daytime viewing is common.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)

  • Short-eared Owls are renowned for their daytime hunting habits and characteristic facial discs..
  • They frequently hunt in marshes and open grasslands.

Long-eared Owl (Asio otus)

  • These owls frequently hold their lengthy ear tufts, or “horns,” upright.
  • Small mammals and birds make up the majority of their diet.

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)

  • The Northern Saw-whet Owl is a little and solitary bird.
  • Their call, which like a saw being sharpened, gave rise to their name.

Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi)

  • The smallest owl species in the world is the elf owl..
  • In the southwest of the United States, they build their nests in saguaro cacti or tree cavities.

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)

  • Snowy owls are renowned for having stunning white feathers..
  • They may travel south during irruption years and are adaptable to arctic settings

Northern Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium gnoma)

The white “X” pattern on the rear of these little owls’ heads makes them easily identifiable.

Flammulated Owl (Psiloscops flammeolus)

  • These owls are among the tiniest in North America.
  •  Flammulated Owls have a peculiar song that sounds like a little flute being blown

Ferruginous Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium brasilianum):

  • Forests and open woods are among the environments where ferruginous pygmy owls can be found..
  • They are fairly little and have rusty-colored plumage.

Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis):

  • Spotted Owls are distinguished by their eerie dark eyes and mottled feathering..
  • They are frequently connected to old-growth woods, and in some places, they are considered a threatened species.

Owls in Florida: Characteristics

Owl SpeciesCharacteristics
Eastern Screech OwlSmall size, ear tufts, red or gray morphs
Barred OwlLarge size, distinctive barred pattern on plumage
Barn OwlHeart-shaped facial disc, white plumage, silent flight
Great Horned OwlLarge size, prominent “horns,” adaptable, powerful talons
Eastern Whip-poor-willNocturnal, distinct “whip-poor-will” call, cryptic plumage
Burrowing OwlSmall size, ground-dwelling, burrows, diurnal
Short-eared OwlMedium size, facial disk, short “ear” tufts, diurnal
Long-eared OwlMedium size, long “ear” tufts, nocturnal
Northern Saw-whet OwlSmall size, round facial disk, “toot” call, nocturnal
Elf OwlTiny size, round facial disk, smallest owl in North America
Snowy OwlLarge size, all-white plumage (in males), Arctic habitat
Northern Pygmy OwlSmall size, diurnal, active during the day
Flammulated OwlSmall size, flammulated markings on plumage, nocturnal
Ferruginous Pygmy OwlSmall size, rusty plumage, diurnal
Spotted OwlMedium size, dark eyes, distinct spotting on plumage

FAQ’s

What is the most common owl species in Florida?

The Eastern Screech Owl, available in red and gray color morphs, is a common native owl species in Florida.

What owl is known for its hooting catchphrase in Florida?

The Barred Owl is known for its hooting sounds, often described as “Who cooks for you?” or “Who cooks for you all?”

What owl species is known for hunting rodents at night in Florida?

The Barn Owl is known for its white plumage and raspy screeches while hunting rodents over fields and marshes at night.

Which owl is considered an apex predator in Florida ecosystems?

The Great Horned Owl, with its tufted “horns” and piercing yellow eyes, is an apex predator in Florida’s ecosystems.

What bird is frequently mistaken for an owl due to its nocturnal habits in Florida?

The Eastern Whip-poor-will is often mistaken for an owl in Florida due to its nocturnal insect-hunting activities and haunting “whip-poor-will” calls.

What unique habit distinguishes the Burrowing Owl from other owls in Florida?

Burrowing Owls in Florida are known for dwelling in underground burrows rather than trees, making them unique among owls.

Which owl species is an elusive visitor to Florida’s grasslands and marshes during the winter?

The Short-eared Owl is an elusive winter visitor to Florida known for flying low over fields at dusk.

What distinguishes the Long-eared Owl, a rare Florida species, from others?

Long-eared Owls in Florida have long ear tufts and are more commonly heard than seen due to their woodland habitat.

What distinctive call is associated with the Northern Saw-whet Owl in Florida?

The Northern Saw-whet Owl is known for its repetitive “saw-whet” calls and is a small, secretive owl found in Florida’s forests.

Where can avid birdwatchers spot the Elf Owl in Florida?

Elf Owls are small, solitary owls found in Florida’s forests, known for their repeated “saw-whet” sounds, making them a treat for dedicated birdwatchers.

When might Snowy Owls be observed in Florida?

Snowy Owls, typically arctic visitors, are rarely observed in Florida, primarily during irruption years.

What distinguishes the Northern Pygmy Owl, another infrequent visitor, in Florida?

The Northern Pygmy Owl is a small owl with large yellow eyes and is extremely rare to see in Florida.

What are the unique vocalizations of Flammulated Owls in Florida?

Flammulated Owls in Florida are known for their high-pitched, insect-like sounds and are relatively uncommon.

Where is the Ferruginous Pygmy Owl primarily found in Florida?

The Ferruginous Pygmy Owl is primarily found in southern Florida and is a small predator with rust-colored plumage and characteristic white “eyebrows.”

What distinguishes the Spotted Owl, a rare sight in Florida?

The Spotted Owl is a medium-sized owl with distinctive brown and white plumage, making it an incredibly unusual sight in Florida.