Owls of Wisconsin: Exploring 15 Fascinating Species

Introduction

Owls of Wisconsin: Owls are amazing animals that are loved by both those who enjoy birds and people who think that nature is amazing. 

Because of their mysterious charm, nocturnal lifestyle, and deep cultural importance, these birds are very precious to us 15 different species of owls may be found in the heart of Wisconsin. 

Some are long-term residents, some are only sometimes visitors. Come along with us as we investigate the wonders of the night and get to know the many “Owls of Wisconsin.” 

There is a fascinating world waiting in the shadows, regardless of your level of skill with birding or just curiosity about these amazing creatures.

1. Great Horned Owl

With its impressive stature and characteristic ear tufts, the Great Horned Owl is a formidable and versatile predator. This species, which is widely distributed, is renowned for its amazing hunting skills and hooting noises.

Owl Legs: Great Horned Owls have tarsal lengths between 5.4 and 8 centimeters (2.1 to 3.1 inches).

AspectInformation
Species NameGreat Horned Owl
Scientific NameBubo virginianus
CountryNorth and South America
Number of Eggs1 to 4 eggs
Incubation Period for EggsApproximately 30 days
DietCarnivorous, small mammals, birds, reptiles
HabitatVaried, forests, grasslands, urban areas
Migration (yes or no)No
Body Size18 to 25 inches (46 to 63 cm)
Body Weight2 to 5.5 pounds (0.9 to 2.5 kg)
Dangerous for HumansGenerally not dangerous, but can be defensive if provoked
Maximum Flight HeightUp to 10,000 feet (3,048 meters)
WeatherNocturnal, active in various weather conditions
Birds (yes or no)Yes
Total TypesSeveral subspecies
Total ColorVaried shades of brown, gray, and white

2. Barred Owl

Known for its black eyes and characteristic “Who cooks for you?” call, the Barred bird is a common and frequently seen bird in Wisconsin. There are a lot of these species in the state.

AspectInformation
Species NameBarred Owl
Scientific NameStrix varia
CountryNorth America
Number of Eggs2-4 eggs
Incubation Period for EggsApproximately 28-33 days
DietMainly small mammals, birds, amphibians, and invertebrates
HabitatMixed forests, woodlands, swamps, and riparian areas
Migration (yes or no)Generally non-migratory
Body Size40–63 cm (16–25 in) in length
Body Weight500–1,050 grams (1.1–2.3 lbs)
Dangerous for HumansGenerally not dangerous, but can be defensive if threatened
Maximum Flight HeightTypically fly at tree canopy level
WeatherNocturnal, active in various weather conditions
Birds (yes or no)Yes
Total TypesOne species
Total ColorBrown and white, with barred patterns on the chest and vertical streaks on the belly

3. Eastern Screech Owl

In Wisconsin, the Eastern Screech Owl inhabits both rural and urban settings, despite its small stature. Owl aficionados love it for its endearing look and eerie trill. This species is widespread.

AspectInformation
Species NameEastern Screech Owl
Scientific NameMegascops asio
CountryNorth America
Number of Eggs3-5 eggs
Incubation Period for Eggs26-28 days
DietMainly small mammals, birds, insects
HabitatWoodlands, forests, suburban areas
Migration (yes or no)Mostly sedentary, some may migrate short distances
Body Size6.3-9.8 inches (16-25 cm)
Body Weight4.3-8.6 ounces (122-245 grams)
Dangerous for HumansNot dangerous, but can be defensive if threatened
Maximum Flight HeightTypically low to the ground
WeatherNocturnal, active during the night
Birds (yes or no)Yes
Total TypesSeveral types, including red and gray morphs
Total ColorRed, gray, or brown

4. Barn Owl

In Wisconsin, the heart-shaped facial disk of the Barn Owl is a striking, but somewhat uncommon, sight. These birds are noted for their stealthy flying and enjoy broad grasslands and rural regions. In the state, barn owls are regarded as scarce.

AspectInformation
Species NameBarn Owl
Scientific NameTyto alba
CountryWorldwide, except polar regions
Number of Eggs4-7
Incubation Period for Eggs29-34 days
DietMainly rodents
HabitatGrasslands, farmlands, forests
Migration (yes or no)Mostly non-migratory
Body Size33-39 cm (13-15 inches)
Body Weight200-500 grams
Dangerous for HumansNot dangerous
Maximum Flight HeightUp to 10,000 feet
WeatherNocturnal, prefers clear nights
Birds (yes or no)Yes (it’s a bird!)
Total Types1 (Barn Owl species)
Total ColorMostly pale with a mix of tan, brown, and white

5. Snowy Owl

The Snowy Owl is a magnificent and recognizable bird of the Arctic, distinguished by its stunning all-white plumage. Known for its winter

migrations, these huge owls are uncommon yet fascinating visits to some parts of North America.

AspectInformation
Species NameSnowy Owl
Scientific NameBubo scandiacus
CountryArctic regions, North America
Number of Eggs3 to 11 eggs
Incubation Period for EggsApproximately 32 days
DietMainly lemmings, small mammals
HabitatArctic tundra, open landscapes
Migration (yes or no)Partial migration
Body SizeLarge
Body Weight2.95 to 6.6 lbs (1.34 to 3 kg)
Dangerous for HumansNot generally dangerous, but can defend nest if threatened
Maximum Flight HeightUp to 100 feet (30 meters)
WeatherWell-adapted to cold climates, can withstand low temperatures
Birds (yes or no)Yes
Total TypesOne of the larger owl species
Total ColorMostly white plumage with some dark markings

6. Northern Saw-whet Owl

Small and reticent, the Northern Saw-whet Owl is recognized by its distinctive, monotonous tooting cries. Across North America, woods and woodlands are usually home to these endearing birds.

AspectInformation
Species NameNorthern Saw-whet Owl
Scientific NameAegolius acadicus
CountryNorth America
Number of Eggs3 to 7
Incubation Period for EggsApproximately 27 days
DietMainly small mammals, birds, and insects
HabitatConiferous and mixed woodlands, forests, and wooded areas
Migration (yes or no)Partial migratory; some individuals migrate, while others are resident
Body SizeSmall
Body WeightApproximately 75-110 grams
Dangerous for HumansNot dangerous, but can defend themselves if threatened
Maximum Flight HeightTypically low to the ground, around tree height
WeatherPrefers cool, temperate climates; can endure cold temperatures
Birds (yes or no)Yes
Total Types1 (Northern Saw-whet Owl)
Total ColorBrown, white, and tan

7. Long-eared Owl

The medium-sized Long-eared Owl is distinguished by its tufted “horns” and love of thick flora and wooded areas. Because they are reticent, they are frequently heard but difficult to see.

AspectInformation
Species NameLong-eared Owl
Scientific NameAsio otus
CountryVaries (cosmopolitan distribution)
Number of Eggs3-8
Incubation Period for Eggs25-30 days
DietSmall mammals, birds
HabitatForests, woodlands, marshes
Migration (yes or no)Partial, some populations migrate
Body Size35-40 cm (14-16 inches)
Body Weight170-300 grams
Dangerous for HumansGenerally not dangerous, but may defend nest if threatened
Maximum Flight HeightUp to 2,000 meters (6,600 feet)
WeatherNocturnal, active in various weather conditions
Birds (yes or no)Yes
Total TypesVarious subspecies exist
Total ColorBrown with streaks, facial disc with distinctive orange tones

8. Short-eared Owl

The characteristic small “horns” of the small-eared Owl and its predilection for wide-open grasslands are well-known. These owls are frequently observed hunting animals by flying low over fields.

AspectInformation
Species NameShort-eared Owl
Scientific NameAsio flammeus
CountryWorldwide, except Antarctica
Number of EggsTypically 4 to 7
Incubation Period for EggsAbout 21 to 28 days
DietMainly small mammals, birds
HabitatGrasslands, marshes, tundra
Migration (yes or no)Yes, but can be sedentary
Body SizeMedium-sized
Body Weight206 to 475 grams
Dangerous for HumansNot considered dangerous
Maximum Flight HeightTypically low to the ground
WeatherActive during twilight hours
Birds (yes or no)Yes
Total TypesVarious subspecies
Total ColorMottled brown and buff

9. Northern Hawk Owl

The beautiful Northern Hawk Owl has an unusual look that makes it resemble a hawk. They are well-known for their hunting prowess and perching habits; they frequently perch prominently in wide-open spaces.

AspectInformation
Species NameNorthern Hawk Owl
Scientific NameSurnia ulula
CountryNorthern Hemisphere
Number of Eggs3-11
Incubation Period for EggsApproximately 26-28 days
DietSmall mammals, birds, and insects
HabitatConiferous and mixed forests, open woodland, tundra
Migration (yes or no)Nomadic, may migrate based on prey availability
Body SizeApproximately 14-17 inches (35-43 cm) in length
Body Weight7-14 ounces (200-400 grams)
Dangerous for HumansGenerally not dangerous, but may defend nest if threatened
Maximum Flight HeightTypically low-level flights, rarely above treetops
WeatherWell-adapted to cold climates, can endure harsh winter conditions
Birds (yes or no)Yes
Total TypesOne main species
Total ColorBrown and white plumage, with distinctive facial disk

10. Burrowing Owl (rarely seen in Wisconsin)

A rare species recognized for its ground-dwelling habits is the burrowing owl. These birds are beautiful and enjoy wide, dry settings, however, they are uncommon in Wisconsin.

AspectInformation
Species NameBurrowing Owl
Scientific NameAthene cunicularia
CountryVaries (North and South America)
Number of Eggs6-12 eggs
Incubation Period for Eggs28-30 days
DietMainly insects, small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians
HabitatGrasslands, deserts, open areas with low vegetation
Migration (yes or no)Mostly non-migratory, but some populations may migrate
Body Size7.5 to 10 inches (19 to 25 cm)
Body Weight4.5 to 9 ounces (125 to 250 grams)
Dangerous for HumansGenerally not dangerous, shy and non-aggressive
Maximum Flight HeightTypically low to the ground, up to 10 feet (3 meters)
WeatherPrefers warm climates, adapted to arid regions
Birds (yes or no)Yes
Total Types1 (Burrowing Owl)
Total ColorBrown, white, and speckled markings

Burrowing Owl (rarely seen in Wisconsin)

The Burrowing Owl is a unique species known for its ground-dwelling habits. While they are not commonly found in Wisconsin, they are charming birds that prefer open, arid habitats.

11. Boreal Owl 

Small and elusive, the boreal owl is usually found in northern woodlands. These owls are distinguished by their eerie sounds and love of dense forests.

AspectInformation
Species NameBoreal Owl
Scientific NameAegolius funereus
CountryNorthern Hemisphere
Number of EggsUsually 3-5
Incubation Period for EggsApproximately 26-30 days
DietSmall mammals, birds, insects
HabitatBoreal forests, coniferous forests
Migration (yes or no)Partial migration
Body SizeSmall to medium-sized
Body WeightApproximately 150-250 grams
Dangerous for HumansNot dangerous, but can defend itself if threatened
Maximum Flight HeightUp to 100 feet
WeatherWell adapted to cold climates
Birds (yes or no)Yes
Total TypesSeveral subspecies
Total ColorBrown, gray, white

12. Northern Pygmy Owl

The little yet formidable Northern Pygmy Owl is well-known for its exceptional hunting abilities and small stature. In the woodlands, their characteristic cries are frequently heard.

AspectInformation
Species NameNorthern Pygmy Owl
Scientific NameGlaucidium gnoma
CountryNorth America, parts of Central and South America
Number of EggsUsually 3 to 7
Incubation Period for EggsApproximately 24 to 28 days
DietPrimarily small birds and mammals; occasionally insects
HabitatConiferous and mixed forests, wooded areas, mountainous regions
Migration (yes or no)Generally non-migratory
Body SizeSmall, around 6 to 7 inches (15 to 18 cm) in length
Body WeightApproximately 2.5 to 3.5 ounces (70 to 100 grams)
Dangerous for HumansNot considered dangerous, but may defend nest if threatened
Maximum Flight HeightTypically flies low to the ground, up to the canopy of trees
WeatherWell-adapted to cold climates; active year-round
Birds (yes or no)Yes, preys on other birds
Total TypesOne of many owl species
Total ColorGenerally brownish with distinct facial markings

13. Great Gray Owl

One of the biggest owl species in North America, the great gray owl is distinguished by its enormous size and quiet flight. These owls are excellent hunters and are usually found in northern woodlands.

AspectInformation
Species NameGreat Gray Owl
Scientific NameStrix nebulosa
CountryNorthern Hemisphere
Number of Eggs2 to 5
Incubation Period for EggsApproximately 30 days
DietMainly rodents, small mammals
HabitatBoreal forests, taiga, tundra
Migration (yes or no)Mostly sedentary, occasional irruptions
Body Size24 – 33 inches (61 – 84 cm)
Body Weight1.5 – 5.5 pounds (0.7 – 2.5 kg)
Dangerous for HumansGenerally not dangerous, but can defend nest if threatened
Maximum Flight HeightTypically low to the ground, skilled in navigating dense forests
WeatherWell adapted to cold climates, may hunt during daytime in winter
Birds (yes or no)No, solitary and territorial
Total TypesOne distinct species
Total ColorGray and white feathers, with some brown and black markings

14. Western Screech Owl (very rare in Wisconsin)

The tiny, secretive Western Screech Owl is frequently identified by its trilling sounds. These are attractive birds, usually seen in western areas of North America, although they are infrequently seen in Wisconsin.

AspectInformation
Species NameWestern Screech Owl
Scientific NameMegascops kennicottii
CountryNorth and Central America
Number of Eggs2 to 4
Incubation Period for Eggs26 to 30 days
DietMainly insects, small mammals, birds, and reptiles
HabitatWoodlands, deserts, and urban areas
Migration (yes or no)Mostly sedentary, some migration in response to food availability
Body Size8.5 to 10.2 inches (21.6 to 25.9 cm)
Body Weight6.3 to 9.3 ounces (180 to 265 grams)
Dangerous for HumansNot dangerous, but may defend nest if threatened
Maximum Flight HeightTypically low, within tree canopy
WeatherActive year-round, nocturnal
Birds (yes or no)Yes
Total TypesVarious species within the owl family
Total ColorTypically brown, gray, or reddish-brown with streaks and spots

15. Eastern Whip-poor-will 

The Eastern Whip-poor-will is a nocturnal bird named for its name-sounding repeating cries. Generally speaking, eastern and central North America is home to these nightjars.

AspectInformation
Species NameEastern Whip-poor-will
Scientific NameAntrostomus vociferus
CountryNorth America
Number of EggsTypically 2
Incubation Period for EggsAbout 19-21 days
DietInsects, especially moths
HabitatOpen woodlands, fields, and grasslands
Migration (yes or no)Yes
Body SizeSmall to medium
Body WeightAbout 1.2 – 1.8 ounces
Dangerous for HumansNo
Maximum Flight HeightUp to 2,000 feet
WeatherNocturnal, active at dusk and dawn
Birds (yes or no)Yes
Total TypesMultiple species
Total ColorMottled brown and gray

FAQs

1. Which species of owl is most prevalent in Wisconsin? 

The Eastern Screech Owl is the most prevalent owl species in Wisconsin, inhabiting both urban and wooded settings. 

2. Do Snowy Owls frequently appear in Wisconsin? 

In Wisconsin, snowy owl sightings are uncommon. They are sporadic visitors to the state throughout the winter, mostly in the north. 

3. In Wisconsin, where may I see the Great Gray Owl? 

Among the biggest owl species, the Great Gray Owl may be seen in the deep coniferous woods of northern Wisconsin. 

4. Do Wisconsin residents frequently observe burrowing owls? 

No, it’s not common to observe burrowing owls in Wisconsin. In other regions of North America, these ground-dwelling owls are usually found in open, desert settings. 

5. Which Wisconsin owl species is the smallest? The smallest species of owl found in Wisconsin is the Northern Pygmy Owl. These little owls, which measure between 6.3 and 7.1 inches, are frequently seen in the state’s woods and woodlands. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, Wisconsin’s natural beauty and abundance are demonstrated by the wide variety of owl species that inhabit its skies and forests. 

These avian predators, which range in size from the stately Great Horned Owl to the secretive Boreal Owl, are an important part of Wisconsin’s ecosystems. Some make fascinating seasonal visits, like the Snowy Owl, while others are permanent inhabitants. 

There are several possibilities for bird enthusiasts to discover and enjoy the wonders of the avian world presented by Wisconsin’s owls, whether they are lured by their remarkable looks, captivating habits, or hooting cries. 

These amazing birds serve as a constant reminder to us of the need to maintain their habitats and the delicate natural equilibrium.