Select Page

Introduction

Welcome to our blog on Michigan Owls! Michigan is home to a diverse array of owl species, each with their own unique characteristics and habitats. In this blog, we will introduce you to the different types of owls found in Michigan, including the Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, and Eastern Screech Owl. We will also delve into the habitats and behaviors of these magnificent birds, as well as tips for spotting them in the wild. Whether you’re a bird enthusiast or simply curious about the natural world, this blog is sure to provide you with a wealth of information on the owls of Michigan. So, let’s get started on our journey of discovery!

Overview of Michigan’s owl population

Michigan is home to a variety of owl species, including some of the most common and recognizable owls found in North America. Some of the most common owl species found in Michigan include the Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, and Eastern Screech Owl. These owls can be found in a variety of habitats throughout the state, from dense forests to open fields and wetlands. In addition to these common species, Michigan is also home to several other owl species such as the Northern Saw-whet Owl, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, Northern Pygmy Owl, Boreal Owl and Whiskered Screech Owl. These species are less common and may be harder to spot in the wild, but can still be found in certain areas of the state, especially during migration. Michigan’s owl population plays an important role in the state’s ecosystem, serving as both predator and prey. These birds are known for their distinctive calls and nocturnal habits, and can be a fascinating subject for birdwatching and wildlife observation. The population of some species of owls like the Barn Owl, Eastern Screech Owl, and the Great Horned Owl are stable, but other species like the Long-eared Owl and the Short-eared Owl have seen a decline in population in recent years. Conservation efforts are underway to ensure the survival of these species.

Purpose of the blog

The purpose of this blog is to provide readers with a comprehensive introduction to the different types of owls found in Michigan. The blog aims to educate readers about the physical characteristics, habitats, behaviors, and diets of these birds, as well as tips for spotting them in the wild. By providing this information, the blog aims to foster a greater appreciation and understanding of the natural world and the important role that owls play in Michigan’s ecosystem.

Long-Eared Owl – Scientific name – Asio otus

Long-eared owl standing on a branch

Physical Characteristics: The Long-Eared Owl is a medium-sized owl with distinctive ear tufts, which are usually raised when the bird is alert. The feathers on the head and back are dark brown, with white spots on the wings and tail. The underparts are pale with dark streaking. They have yellow eyes and a yellow bill. They are about 15-17 inches in length, with a wingspan of up to 39 inches.

Habitat and Range: Long-Eared Owls are found in a variety of habitats, including coniferous and deciduous forests, as well as wetlands and grasslands. They are also found in urban and suburban areas, where they roost in large trees or human-made structures like barns and sheds. They are found in North America, Europe, and Asia, and in Michigan they breed and live in the southern part of the state. They migrate south during the winter months.

Behavior and Diet: Long-Eared Owls are nocturnal hunters, preying on small mammals, birds, and insects. They are known for their silent flight, which allows them to sneak up on their prey undetected. They are also known for their distinctive, low-pitched hooting calls. They are solitary, territorial birds that roost during the day in dense vegetation or tree cavities.

Tips for spotting in the wild: Long-Eared Owls are most active at night, so the best time to spot them is during the early evening or early morning. They can be found roosting in dense vegetation or tree cavities during the day. Look for large trees or human-made structures like barns and sheds that might provide suitable roosting sites. They are also known to roost communally during the winter. Listening for their distinctive, low-pitched hooting calls can also help you locate them.

Fact: Long-Eared Owls are known for their distinctive ear tufts, which are actually feathers, not ears. They use these tufts to communicate with each other and to make them look bigger to intimidate predators or rivals.

Long-eared owl standing on a branch

Long-Eared Owl Asio otus Range Map

Asio otus owl range map
the barking owl has large bright yellow eye surrounded by a black line. his upperparts are brown coarsely spotted white

Northern Saw-Whet Owl – Scientific name – Aegolius acadicus

the barking owl has large bright yellow eye surrounded by a black line. his upperparts are brown coarsely spotted white

Physical Characteristics: The Northern Saw-whet Owl is a small, compact owl with a round head, no ear tufts, and a short bill. They are brown and white in color, with dark brown streaks on the upper parts and white underparts. They have yellow eyes and a yellow bill. They are around 7-8 inches in length, with a wingspan of up to 20 inches.

Habitat and Range: Northern Saw-whet Owls are found in coniferous and mixed-wood forests, as well as wetlands and grasslands. They are found throughout North America, including in Michigan, where they breed and live year-round. They are also migratory, with some populations moving south in the winter.

Behavior and Diet: Northern Saw-whet Owls are nocturnal hunters, preying on small mammals, birds, and insects. They are known for their silent flight and are active year-round. They are also known for their distinctive, high-pitched calls, which are often described as sounding like a “saw-whetting” noise. They are solitary, territorial birds that roost during the day in dense vegetation or tree cavities.

Tips for spotting in the wild: Northern Saw-whet Owls are most active at night, so the best time to spot them is during the early evening or early morning. They can be found roosting in dense vegetation or tree cavities during the day. Look for coniferous or mixed-wood forests, as well as wetlands and grasslands that might provide suitable habitats. Listening for their distinctive, high-pitched calls can also help you locate them.

Fact: The Northern Saw-whet Owl is known for its small size, making it one of the smallest owls in North America. They are so small that they have been known to use woodpecker holes as nesting sites.

Northern Saw-Whet Owl Aegolius acadicus Range Map

Aegolius acadicus owl range map

Barred Owl – Scientific name – Strix varia

This owl is back in the autumn in the Montreal area in Province of Quebec.

Physical Characteristics: The Barred Owl is a medium-sized owl with a large head, no ear tufts and a rounded tail. They have a distinctive pattern of vertical streaks on the upper parts and horizontal streaks on the underparts. They have large, dark eyes, and a yellow bill. They are around 18-24 inches in length, with a wingspan of up to 39 inches.

Habitat and Range: Barred Owls can be found in a variety of habitats, including deciduous and coniferous forests, wetlands and wooded suburban areas. They are found throughout eastern North America, including in Michigan, where they are year-round residents.

Behavior and Diet: Barred Owls are nocturnal hunters, preying on small mammals, birds, and insects. They are known for their hooting calls, which are often described as sounding like “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” They are territorial and roost during the day in tree cavities or dense vegetation.

Tips for spotting in the wild: Barred Owls are most active at night, so the best time to spot them is during the early evening or early morning. They can be found roosting in dense vegetation or tree cavities during the day. Listen for their distinctive hooting calls, they are often heard calling at night. They are also known to perch on low branches during the day.

Fact: The Barred Owl has a distinctive hooting call that sounds like “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?” This call has become a popular catchphrase among birders and owl enthusiasts.

This owl is back in the autumn in the Montreal area in Province of Quebec.

Barred Owl Strix varia Range Map

Barred Owl Strix varia owl range map
Eurasian eagle-owl, Bubo bubo, standing at tree

Great Horned Owl – Scientific name – Bubo virginianus

Eurasian eagle-owl, Bubo bubo, standing at tree

Physical Characteristics: The Great Horned Owl is a large owl with prominent ear tufts, which are actually feathers, not ears. They have a large, round head, a yellow beak and yellow eyes. They are dark brown and white in color, with dark brown streaking on the upper parts and white underparts. They are around 18-25 inches in length, with a wingspan of up to 60 inches.

Habitat and Range: Great Horned Owls can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, grasslands, wetlands, and deserts. They are found throughout North and South America, including in Michigan where they breed and live year-round.

Behavior and Diet: Great Horned Owls are nocturnal hunters, preying on small mammals, birds, and insects. They are known for their deep, hooting calls, which are often described as sounding like “hoo-hoo hoo-hoo.” They are territorial and roost during the day in tree cavities or dense vegetation.

Tips for spotting in the wild: Great Horned Owls are most active at night, so the best time to spot them is during the early evening or early morning. They can be found roosting in dense vegetation or tree cavities during the day. Listen for their distinctive hooting calls, which are often heard at night. They are also known to perch on low branches during the day.

Fact: A funny fact about the Great Horned Owl is that despite its fierce appearance, it has been known to prey on small animals such as skunks and opossums, which are known for their strong odor. This has earned the Great Horned Owl the nickname “skunk owl.”

Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus Range Map

Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus

Barn Owl – Scientific name – Tyto alba

Barn owl full body portrait perched against brown background

Physical Characteristics: The Barn Owl is a medium-sized owl with a heart-shaped face, a pale coloration, and a distinctive white face with black eyes. They have long, slender wings and a short tail. They are around 13-15 inches in length, with a wingspan of up to 39 inches.

Habitat and Range: Barn Owls can be found in a variety of habitats, including farms, grasslands, wetlands, and deserts. They are found throughout the world and in Michigan, they breed and live year-round.

Behavior and Diet: Barn Owls are nocturnal hunters, preying on small mammals such as rodents, voles, and mice. They are known for their silent flight, which allows them to sneak up on their prey undetected. They are also known for their distinctive, screeching calls. They are territorial and roost during the day in tree cavities or dense vegetation.

Tips for spotting in the wild: Barn Owls are most active at night, so the best time to spot them is during the early evening or early morning. They can be found roosting in dense vegetation or tree cavities during the day. Listen for their distinctive, screeching calls, which are often heard at night. They are also known to perch on low branches during the day. Look for large trees or human-made structures like barns and sheds that might provide suitable roosting sites.

Fact: A funny fact about the Barn Owl is that they have an extremely sensitive sense of hearing, which allows them to locate prey in complete darkness. This sensitivity is due to their asymmetrical ear openings, which are located at different heights on their head. This allows them to pinpoint the location of prey with amazing precision, even when hunting in total darkness.

Barn owl full body portrait perched against brown background

Barn Owl Tyto alba Range Map

Tyto alba owl range map
The short-eared owl at an old post

Short-Eared Owl – Scientific name – Asio flammeus

The short-eared owl at an old post

Physical Characteristics: The Short-Eared Owl is a medium-sized owl with distinctive ear tufts, which are usually not raised when the bird is alert. They have a mottled brown plumage with a white face, yellow eyes, and a yellow bill. They are around 14-18 inches in length, with a wingspan of up to 39 inches.

Habitat and Range: Short-Eared Owls are found in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, marshes, and tundra. They are found throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, and in Michigan, they are most commonly found in the northern and western parts of the state. They are also migratory, with some populations moving south in the winter.

Behavior and Diet: Short-Eared Owls are diurnal hunters, preying on small mammals, birds, and insects. They are known for their silent flight and are active year-round. They are also known for their distinctive, low-pitched hooting calls. They are solitary, territorial birds that roost during the day in dense vegetation or tree cavities.

Tips for spotting in the wild: Short-Eared Owls are most active during the day, so the best time to spot them is during the early morning or late afternoon. They can be found roosting

Fact: The Short-Eared Owl is that they are known for their distinctive, undulating flight pattern. They often fly low to the ground, flapping their wings in a slow, wavering motion, which gives the impression of a kite or leaf being blown about by the wind. This unusual flight pattern is thought to be used for hunting and also for courtship displays.

Short-Eared Owl Asio flammeus Range Map

Asio flammeus owl range map

Snowy Owl – Scientific name – Bubo scandiacus

details of a snowy owl perched on a branch

Physical Characteristics: The Snowy Owl is a large owl with a distinctive white plumage and yellow eyes. They have a round head, no ear tufts, and a short tail. They are around 20-28 inches in length, with a wingspan of up to 60 inches. They are the heaviest owl in North America.

Habitat and Range: Snowy Owls are primarily found in the Arctic tundra, but they will occasionally venture further south during the winter. They are found in North America, Europe, and Asia, and in Michigan, they are most commonly found in the northern and western parts of the state.

Behavior and Diet: Snowy Owls are diurnal hunters, preying on small mammals, birds, and fish. They are known for their silent flight and are active year-round. They are also known for their distinctive, deep hooting calls. They are solitary, territorial birds that roost during the day on the ground or on high perches.

Tips for spotting in the wild: Snowy Owls are most active during the day, so the best time to spot them is during the early morning or late afternoon. They can be found roosting on the ground or on high perches, such as fence posts or telephone poles. Look for large, open areas such as fields or airports, where they might hunt for small mammals. Listen for their deep, hooting calls, which are often heard at night.

Fact: A fun fact about Snowy Owls is that unlike most owls, Snowy Owls are diurnal, meaning that they are active during the day, and can also be active during the night. They are also known for their distinctive, deep hooting calls.They are also known to be opportunistic hunters, and will prey on a wide variety of animals, including small mammals, birds, fish, and even insects. Some populations of Snowy Owls are migratory, with many birds traveling south in the winter to find food.

details of a snowy owl perched on a branch

Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus Range Map

Bubo scandiacus owl range map
Great grey owl in the Alberta Foothills

Great Gray Owl – Scientific name – Strix nebulosa

Great grey owl in the Alberta Foothills

Physical Characteristics: The Great Gray Owl is a large, imposing owl with a distinctive gray plumage and yellow eyes. They have a round head, no ear tufts, and a relatively long tail. They are around 27-33 inches in length, with a wingspan of up to 60 inches.

Habitat and Range: Great Gray Owls are found in the boreal forests of North America, Europe and Asia. They are also found in the western part of the state of Michigan. They prefer mature coniferous or mixed forests with an open understory, and are often found near wetlands and bogs.

Behavior and Diet: Great Gray Owls are primarily nocturnal hunters, preying on small mammals, birds, and insects. They are known for their silent flight and are active year-round. They are also known for their distinctive, deep hooting calls. They are solitary, territorial birds that roost during the day in dense vegetation or tree cavities.

Tips for spotting in the wild: Great Gray Owls are most active during the night, so the best time to spot them is during the early morning or late evening. They can be found roosting in dense vegetation or tree cavities, so look for large, mature coniferous or mixed forests with an open understory. Listen for their deep, hooting calls, which are often heard at night.

Fact: A fun fact about the Great Gray Owl is that it has an extremely large head in proportion to its body, which helps it locate and capture prey in dense forests. They are also known for their silent flight, which is due to the special feathers on their wings that muffle the sound of their wingbeats. They have also been known to mimic the calls of other birds, such as the American Kestrel, to lure unsuspecting prey closer.

Great Gray Owl Strix nebulosa Range Map

Great Gray Owl Strix nebulosa range map

Eastern Screech Owl – Scientific name – Megascops asio

A brown Eastern Screech Owl perched on a tree stump.

Physical Characteristics: The Eastern Screech Owl is a small owl with a distinctive ear tufts, yellow eyes and variable plumage, with the most common being red or gray. They are around 7-10 inches in length, with a wingspan of up to 24 inches.

Habitat and Range: Eastern Screech Owls are found throughout the eastern United States and Canada, including Michigan. They inhabit a variety of wooded habitats, including deciduous, mixed, and coniferous forests, as well as suburban areas with large trees.

Behavior and Diet: Eastern Screech Owls are nocturnal hunters, preying on small mammals, birds, and insects. They are known for their silent flight and are active year-round. They are also known for their distinctive, high-pitched calls. They are solitary, territorial birds that roost during the day in tree cavities or nest boxes.

Tips for spotting in the wild: Eastern Screech Owls are most active during the night, so the best time to spot them is during the early morning or late evening. They can be found roosting in tree cavities or nest boxes, so look for large, mature trees in wooded areas. Listen for their high-pitched calls, which are often heard at night. They are small and well-camouflaged, so they can be difficult to spot, but they are often attracted to backyard bird feeders, so keep an eye out for any small owls visiting at night.

Fact: A fun fact about the Eastern Screech Owl is that it is one of the few owl species that can change color. They can have plumage that ranges from red to gray, and can even change from one color to another as they mature. They are also known for their ability to camouflage themselves by flattening their feathers and tucking in their head, allowing them to blend in with tree bark. They are also known for their vocal mimicry and can imitate the calls of other birds, as well as the calls of animals such as squirrels and insects.

A brown Eastern Screech Owl perched on a tree stump.

Eastern Screech Owl Megascops asio Range Map

Eastern Screech Megascops asio range map
The Boreal Owl in the woods in Germany

Boreal Owl – Scientific name – Aegolius funereus

The Boreal Owl in the woods in Germany

Physical Characteristics: The Boreal Owl is a small owl with a distinctive white-spotted crown, yellow eyes, and a streaked breast. They are around 8-9 inches in length, with a wingspan of up to 22 inches. They have a round head and short tail.

Habitat and Range: Boreal Owls are found throughout the boreal forests of Canada, Alaska, and the northern United States, including parts of Michigan. They inhabit coniferous forests and taiga, as well as suburban areas with large trees.

Behavior and Diet: Boreal Owls are nocturnal hunters, preying on small mammals, birds, and insects. They are active year-round. They are also known for their distinctive, hoot-like calls. They are solitary, territorial birds that roost during the day in tree cavities or nest boxes.

Tips for spotting in the wild: Boreal Owls are most active during the night, so the best time to spot them is during the early morning or late evening. They can be found roosting in tree cavities or nest boxes, so look for large, mature trees in coniferous forest or taiga areas. Listen for their hoot-like calls, which are often heard at night. They are small and well-camouflaged, so they can be difficult to spot, but they are often attracted to backyard bird feeders, so keep an eye out for any small owls visiting at night.

Fact: A fun fact about the Boreal Owl is that it is one of the few owl species that can see ultraviolet light. This allows them to see patterns on the plumage of their prey, such as the ultraviolet-reflecting plumage of some species of rodents, that are invisible to the human eye. This gives them an advantage in hunting, as they can detect their prey more easily in low light conditions. They are also known for their habit of nesting in abandoned woodpecker holes, which they will line with moss and feathers for insulation.

Boreal Owl Aegolius funereus Range Map

Boreal Owl Aegolius funereus range map

Northern Hawk-Owl – Scientific name – Surnia ulula

Northern Hawk Owl resting on a branch in its habitat

Physical Characteristics: The Northern Hawk-Owl is a medium-sized owl with a distinctive long tail, yellow eyes, and a white facial disk with black borders. They have a gray-brown plumage with white spots and streaks. They are around 15-17 inches in length, with a wingspan of up to 37 inches.

Habitat and Range: Northern Hawk-Owls are found throughout the boreal forests of Canada, Alaska, and the northern United States, including parts of Michigan. They inhabit coniferous and mixed forests, as well as tundra and taiga regions.

Behavior and diet: Northern Hawk-Owls are diurnal hunters, preying on small mammals, birds, and insects. They are active year-round and are known for their distinctive, screeching calls. They are solitary, territorial birds that roost during the day in tree cavities or on branches.

Tips for spotting in the wild: Northern Hawk-Owls are most active during the day, so the best time to spot them is during morning or afternoon. They can be found roosting in tree cavities or on branches, so look for large, mature trees in coniferous forest or taiga areas. Listen for their screeching calls, which are often heard during the day. They are well-camouflaged, so they can be difficult to spot, but they are often attracted to backyard bird feeders, so keep an eye out for any medium-sized birds of prey visiting during the day.

Fact: A fun fact about the Northern Hawk-Owl is that it is one of the few owl species that is active during the day. Unlike most owls which are nocturnal, the Northern Hawk-Owl is diurnal, which means that they are active during the day. This is due to its prey, which is mostly small mammals, birds, and insects that are active during the day.

Northern Hawk Owl resting on a branch in its habitat

Northern Hawk-Owl Surnia ulula Range Map

Northern Hawk-Owl Surnia ulula range map

Conclusion

Michigan is home to a diverse array of owl species, each with their own unique characteristics, habitat and range, behavior, and diet. 

Some of the owl species found in Michigan include the Long-Eared Owl, Northern Saw-Whet Owl, Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl, Barn Owl, Short-Eared Owl, Snowy Owl, Great Gray Owl, Eastern Screech Owl, Boreal Owl and Northern Hawk-Owl. 

Each species has its own fun facts and tips for spotting them in the wild.

Encouragement to explore and appreciate Michigan’s owls in the wild

Exploring and appreciating the owls of Michigan can be a rewarding experience. We encourage you to take the time to learn more about these fascinating birds and their role in the ecosystem.

Remember to respect and observe these wild animals from a safe distance.

More From This Category

Feeding the Fledgling: A Guide to What Baby Birds Eat

Feeding the Fledgling: A Guide to What Baby Birds Eat

Introduction Birds, nature's aerial dancers, often capture our attention through their vivid plumage and melodic songs. But what about the unassuming newborn – the hatchling, the nestling, the fledgling? What do these baby birds eat, and more importantly, how can we,...

read more
The 8 most common types of Woodpeckers in Georgia

The 8 most common types of Woodpeckers in Georgia

Ever dreamt of spotting species of woodpeckers in Georgia? You’ve come to the right place! In this blog, we’ll explore the many types of woodpeckers here. From the Pileated Woodpecker to the Northern Flicker – discover the variety. Plus, we’ll talk about conservation...

read more
THE PIGEON BIRDS FLU

THE PIGEON BIRDS FLU

Pigeons can be affected by several types of avian influenza, including the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus, which can cause severe illness and death in both birds and humans. However, it is important to note that pigeon-to-human transmission of the...

read more