It’s quite fascinating that there are 19 species of owls in North America, while 14 of these nocturnal birds are in Utah. Only 10 types of owls in Utah can be seen throughout the year. Four species are rare or accidental finds in the state and are often spotted during their breeding season.
Wherever you go in Utah, whether it’s the suburban area of Great Lake City or any of the wildlife refuges, you’ll have many types of owls to find, film, and photograph. They are birds of prey and hunt and mostly work at night, but some, like the pygmy owl, are fantastic daytime hunters.
Let’s see some fun facts about owls in Utah and their types.
10 Common Species of Owls in Utah
- Barn owl
- Burrowing owl
- Flammulated owl
- Great horned owl
- Long-eared owl
- Mexican spotted owl
- Northern pygmy-owl
- Northern saw-whet owl
- Short-eared owl
- Western screech owl
4 Rare Species of Owls in Utah
- Great Gray Owl
- Boreal Owl
- Snowy Owl
- Elf Owl
Most Popular Owls in Utah and Where You Can Find Them
Utah is an amazing state with gorgeous landscapes and wonderful natural habitats for hundreds of species of birds and animals. You can easily spot owls anywhere in this state, but the following areas give you a better chance:
- Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge: Nestled in the northeast part of the Great Salt Lake, this area offers an unparalleled birdwatching experience in Utah in spring and summer. The 12-mile tour route around the wildlife-rich wetlands provides mesmerizing scenic views of birds of all kinds, including owls.
- Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge: Established in 1959 to provide habitat for migrating and wintering birds, this ecological zone is neatly tucked in the southern end of the Great Salt Lake Desert. The warm and saline waters of Fish Springs attract many species of birds and animals.
- Ouray National Wildlife Refuge: Initially established to provide a breeding and nesting place for migrating waterfowl, this refuge is now home to many species of birds, fish, and animals. The best time to watch birds in this area is during spring and fall, and you’re likely to find them by the Green River nesting and hunting small water birds.
Let’s now look at the most popular owls you can find in Utah all year around.
Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
The great horned owl is a large, brown owl, which is easily noticeable by its horn-like feathers on the head. It has a white belly and a face with dark brown eyes. Females are larger than males and live in smaller territories.
It prefers wooded areas with plenty of trees and shrubs. These birds mate for life, but many couples do not produce any offspring. You can find them in Utah throughout the year.
Long-eared Owl (Asio otus)
With long ear tufts, dark eyes, a white throat and breast, and feathered feet, the long-eared owl lives by itself or in pairs. It’s an arboreal bird that lives in forests and woodlands and nests in tree holes or crevices.
The long-eared owl is predominantly dark brown, with white spots on their head and neck. They breed during the summer months between May and August. Females lay two eggs at a time, which takes up to 35 days to hatch.
Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
As the most widespread owl species in the world, the barn owl measures between 6 and 8 inches and has a wingspan of around 35 inches. It has a round body shape and a big head, which makes it look like a small child’s toy. Its feathers are brown (with white tips), and it has black eyes and legs.
The barn owl is found in the forested areas of Utah. You can find them nesting in structures with plenty of eaves and beams such as barns and attics. They hunt at night for small mammals such as mice and rats or other small birds such as sparrows, chickadees, juncos, starlings, and finches.
Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)
Named after the Greek god of wisdom, Athene, the Burrowing owl is arguably the wisest owl in Utah. Scientists think these owls are the cleverest as they use dung to lure dung beetle, which will ultimately lure larger prey.
They live in underground burrows dug by burrowing animals like squirrels, voles, and prairie dogs. You can find them in open fields, grasslands, and woodlands of Utah, hunting for rodents and even insects.
Flammulated Owl (Psiloscops flammeolus)
The flammulated owl is the most vocal owl in Utah and across the world. It hoots and growls so much at night. You can find it in prairies, open areas, and savannas of Utah. They like staying in pairs in pairs but also love forming large roosts during the breeding season.
Male flammulated owls are silvery gray with dark brown patches on their wings and tails. The females have gray-brown plumage with brown heads. They have ear tufts that are black with white tips and a facial disk with white spots near their eyes.
Like many other owls, they’re nocturnal and only hunt at night for skunks, mice, lizards, snakes, frogs, and birds, such as quail or turkeys. They catch their prey by swooping down from above and grabbing it with their talons and carrying it off into a tree.
Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
The short-eared owl resembles the long-eared owl in many ways only that it has shorter tufts of feathers on the head. It’s a member of the screech-owl family and has a white belly and face, yellow eyes, and gray feathers.
The short-eared owl also has black markings on its wings and tail. They have a distinctive brown streak on each side of the face that runs from the eyes to the tip of their beak.
It’s one of the few daytime owls that hunt and live in open grasslands. You’ll find them in agricultural fields, open-expansive farms, and in the woodlands of Utah.
Western Screech Owl (Megascops kennicottii)
The western screech owls are one of the smallest owls you can find in Utah. It has a gray-brown body with white patches and a bright yellow throat, as well as yellow eyes with black pupils, and its wings are brown with white tips.
You can find them in the grasslands, sage brushes, and other open areas of Utah. This species is nocturnal and eats small rodents such as prairie dogs and rabbits; they also eat insects such as grasshoppers and crickets when they can find them.
While most owls live solitary lives, the western screech owl lives in groups of two to six individuals during the daytime but may travel alone at night in search of food. It roosts in trees during cold weather but may also roost on tall buildings or telephone poles if there are no other suitable places available.
Mexican Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis lucida)
Not very common like the rest of the owls mentioned here, the Mexican spotted owl is usually found in southern and southeastern Utah all year round. It’s one of the largest owls in Utah and has dark eyes and brown or black spots on its feathers. It has a wingspan of about 23 inches, making it slightly smaller than the Northern Spotted Owl.
You’re likely to find it in the southern wetlands of Utah near water sources. Its diet consists mainly of small mammals such as mice and squirrels; however, it also eats insects and some birds. It nests in cavities such as hollow trees or rock crevices.
Northern Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium californicum)
The northern pygmy owl is a small, long-legged owl with yellow or brown eyes. It has a grayish body with white underparts. Its wings are gray-brown and have white markings on the outer edges of each feather. Its tail is brown with some white patches at the ends of the feathers.
You can find pygmy owls in Utah all year round in mountainous regions. They mostly hunt songbirds and other small animals like mice during the day.
In Utah, and around the world, many birders view owls in mystery and wonder. No other bird is as symbolic and mysterious as the owl.
Did you know owls consume their prey as a whole, often after cutting off the head with their powerful talons? After finishing their meals, owls regurgitate feathers and bones as tiny pellets.