What kind of owls are in south carolina?

Did you know that South Carolina is home to a diverse range of owl species? These fascinating creatures play a crucial role in the state’s ecosystem, silently soaring through the night skies. With their distinctive hooting calls, owls have captured the imaginations of both young and old. Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or simply curious about these nocturnal birds of prey, South Carolina offers excellent opportunities for owl enthusiasts.

From the majestic Great Horned Owl to the elusive Barred Owl, each species brings its own charm and mystery to the state’s wildlife. So, get ready to embark on a journey into the world of owls as we uncover their secrets and shed light on their importance within South Carolina’s natural environment.

Owl Species Diversity in South Carolina

South Carolina is home to a remarkable array of owl species, making it a haven for bird enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. The state’s diverse habitats provide ideal conditions for various types of owls to thrive, resulting in an impressive selection of these majestic creatures. Whether you prefer small or large owls, South Carolina has something to offer everyone who appreciates these fascinating birds.

The rich owl population in South Carolina is a testament to the state’s ecological diversity. From the coastal plains to the mountainous regions, each habitat supports different species of owls with unique adaptations. Let’s explore some of the notable owl species found across the state:

1. Eastern Screech-Owl

The Eastern Screech-Owl is one of the most common owl species in South Carolina. With its distinctive trilling call and small size, this owl can be found residing in wooded areas throughout the state. Its ability to camouflage itself against tree bark allows it to blend seamlessly into its surroundings.

2. Barred Owl

Known for its deep hooting sound that echoes through forests at night, the Barred Owl is another prominent resident of South Carolina. This medium-sized owl prefers mature forests near wetlands and swamps where it hunts for prey such as rodents and small mammals.

3. Great Horned Owl

As one of the largest owls in North America, the Great Horned Owl commands attention with its striking appearance and powerful hoots that resonate through the night sky. Found across all regions of South Carolina, this formidable predator preys on a wide range of animals including rabbits, squirrels, and even other birds.

4. Barn Owl

With its distinctive heart-shaped face and ethereal white plumage, the Barn Owl captures our imagination like no other owl species. These elegant birds can be spotted roosting in old barns or abandoned buildings, where they hunt for small mammals using their exceptional hearing skills.

5. Short-eared Owl

The open grasslands and marshes of South Carolina provide a suitable habitat for the Short-eared Owl. With its mottled brown plumage and distinctive yellow eyes, this owl can be observed flying low over fields in search of rodents and small birds.

South Carolina’s owl diversity is not limited to these five species alone. Other notable owl species found within the state include the Burrowing Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, and the elusive Long-eared Owl. Each owl brings its own unique characteristics and behaviors to the rich tapestry of South Carolina’s wildlife.

Barred Owl: Prominent Owl Species in South Carolina (with pictures)

The Barred Owl is one of the most prominent owl species found in South Carolina. With its striking brown and white barred plumage patterns, this owl stands out among other species in the region. Its unique appearance makes it easily recognizable to both bird enthusiasts and casual observers.

These owls are known for their distinct “Who cooks for you?” call, which echoes through the forests of South Carolina. This vocalization is a characteristic feature of the Barred Owl and often serves as a territorial call or a means of communication between mates. It’s an eerie sound that can send shivers down your spine if you’re not familiar with it.

Barred Owls can be found throughout various habitats across the state. From dense forests to swamps and even suburban areas, these adaptable birds have successfully established themselves in diverse environments. They prefer mature forests with large trees, providing them with suitable nesting sites and an abundant supply of prey.

Barred Owls are opportunistic hunters. They primarily feed on small mammals such as mice, voles, squirrels, and rabbits. However, they are also known to consume birds, reptiles, amphibians, and even large insects when necessary. Their hunting technique involves silently gliding through the forest undergrowth before swooping down on unsuspecting prey with precision.

In terms of physical characteristics, Barred Owls possess several adaptations that aid in their survival. Their facial disc acts like a satellite dish, helping them capture sound waves more efficiently while hunting at night. Their wings are designed for silent flight – an essential trait for sneaking up on prey without being detected.

It’s fascinating to observe how these owls interact with their environment. Despite being nocturnal creatures by nature, they can occasionally be spotted during daylight hours perched high on tree branches or gliding gracefully from one tree to another. Their large round eyes, fixed in a forward-facing position, allow them to have excellent binocular vision, enabling them to accurately judge distances and spot prey from afar.

Hoot Owl: Common Owl Species in South Carolina (with pictures)

The Hoot Owl, also known as the Eastern Screech-Owl, is a common sight in South Carolina. These small owls are highly adaptable and can be found even near urban areas. Despite their name, they produce eerie whinnying sounds rather than hooting calls.

Two Color Morphs: Gray and Red-Brown

One interesting aspect of Hoot Owls is that they come in two distinct color morphs: gray and red-brown. The gray morph owls have a predominantly gray plumage with intricate patterns that help them blend into their surroundings. On the other hand, the red-brown morph owls display a reddish-brown hue, providing them with excellent camouflage amidst tree bark or autumn foliage.

These color variations serve as an advantage for the Hoot Owls. By blending seamlessly with their environment, they become stealthy predators capable of surprising their unsuspecting victims.

Adaptable Nocturnal Hunters

Hoot Owls are primarily nocturnal hunters, taking advantage of the cover of darkness to search for food. They possess exceptional hearing capabilities that allow them to locate prey even in complete darkness. Their diet consists mainly of small mammals such as mice, voles, and shrews. However, they are not picky eaters and will also consume insects, birds, reptiles, and amphibians when available.

What sets these owls apart is their ability to adapt to various habitats within South Carolina. While they prefer wooded areas with dense vegetation where they can roost during the day, they can also be found in suburban neighborhoods or city parks where there are suitable nesting sites such as tree cavities or man-made nest boxes.

Eerie Whinnying Sounds

Contrary to popular belief that owls hoot like in storybooks or movies, Hoot Owls produce a distinctive whinnying sound. Their calls are often described as haunting or ghost-like, adding to their mystique. The male owls use these vocalizations to establish territories and attract mates during the breeding season.

If you find yourself walking through a South Carolina forest at night and hear an eerie whinnying sound echoing through the trees, chances are it’s a Hoot Owl making its presence known.

Conservation Efforts

Although Hoot Owls are considered common in South Carolina, conservation efforts are still necessary to ensure their continued presence. Loss of habitat due to urbanization and deforestation poses a threat to these remarkable birds. By preserving wooded areas and providing suitable nesting sites, we can contribute to their survival.

Monkeyfaced Owl: Unusual Owl Species Found in South Carolina (with pictures)

The Monkeyfaced Owl, also known as the Northern Saw-whet Owl, is a fascinating and unusual find in South Carolina. With its round face and large eyes, this tiny owl bears a distinct resemblance to a monkey, hence its peculiar name. Let’s delve into some intriguing details about this captivating species.

These remarkable owls make their presence known in South Carolina during certain seasons as they migrate through the state. However, unlike other owl species that breed here regularly, the Monkeyfaced Owls do not establish permanent residency. Their visits are fleeting yet highly anticipated by bird enthusiasts across the region.

The distinctive appearance of these owls is one of their most notable features. Sporting a round face and big expressive eyes, they exude an air of charm and curiosity. The combination of their small size and unique facial characteristics make them stand out among other owl species found in the area.

Monkeyfaced Owls exhibit interesting behavior. These nocturnal creatures embark on long journeys from their breeding grounds in northern regions to more southern locations like South Carolina. During these migrations, they rely on their exceptional hunting skills to sustain themselves along the way.

While Monkeyfaced Owls may not breed in South Carolina regularly, they play an essential role within the ecosystem during their visits. As skilled hunters of small mammals such as mice and voles, they help control populations of these rodents that can otherwise cause significant damage to crops or become nuisances for homeowners.

To catch their prey with precision, Monkeyfaced Owls utilize their acute hearing abilities rather than relying solely on sight. Their keen sense of hearing allows them to detect even the faintest rustle or movement made by potential meals hidden beneath layers of vegetation or snow.

Despite being relatively elusive due to their small size and preference for dense forested areas, there have been instances where lucky observers have captured photographs of these enchanting owls. These images not only serve as a testament to their existence in South Carolina but also provide valuable insights into their behavior and appearance.

Horned Owl: Majestic Owl Species in South Carolina (with pictures)

The Great Horned Owl is a majestic species found in South Carolina. With their prominent ear tufts and piercing yellow eyes, these owls are truly impressive to behold. Their distinct appearance sets them apart from other owl species, making them easily recognizable.

One of the most notable features of the Great Horned Owl is its deep hooting call that carries through the night. This haunting sound adds to their mystique and often echoes throughout the forests and swamps where they reside. If you find yourself wandering through South Carolina’s wilderness after dark, don’t be surprised if you hear their distinctive call resonating in the distance.

These magnificent creatures can be found inhabiting various habitats across the state, including forests and swamps. They have adapted well to both urban and rural environments, allowing them to thrive in different settings. Whether it’s perched high atop a tree branch or hidden among dense foliage, the Great Horned Owl has mastered camouflage techniques that help it blend seamlessly into its surroundings.

In addition to their striking appearance, Great Horned Owls possess remarkable hunting abilities. Equipped with razor-sharp talons and keen eyesight, they are skilled predators capable of capturing prey both on land and in the air. Their diet consists of small mammals such as rabbits, squirrels, and mice, but they are also known to feed on birds, reptiles, amphibians, and even larger prey like skunks or domestic cats.

These owls show great adaptability as well. They do not build nests themselves but rather repurpose abandoned nests built by other large birds such as hawks or crows. This resourcefulness allows them to focus more energy on raising their young instead of constructing elaborate nests from scratch.

Great Horned Owls are known for being attentive parents who fiercely protect their offspring. They typically lay one to four eggs, and both parents take turns incubating them for about a month. Once the chicks hatch, they are cared for by their parents until they are ready to leave the nest at around 10 to 12 weeks old.

Unique Calls of Owls in South Carolina

Owls are fascinating creatures known for their distinctive calls. In South Carolina, each owl species has its own unique call, making it an exciting place for bird enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

Barred Owls: “Who cooks for you?”

One of the most well-known owls in South Carolina is the Barred Owl. These magnificent birds have a distinctive call that sounds like they’re asking, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” This hooting call resonates through the forests at night, creating an eerie atmosphere. It’s not uncommon to hear this haunting sound echoing through the trees during dusk or dawn.

Hoot Owls: Eerie Whinnying Sounds

In addition to Barred Owls, South Carolina is also home to Hoot Owls, which produce a different kind of call. Instead of the traditional hooting sound associated with owls, Hoot Owls emit eerie whinnying sounds. These unique vocalizations can be quite startling if you’re not familiar with them. Picture yourself walking through a dense forest at night when suddenly you hear these ghostly whinnies piercing through the darkness. It’s an experience that sends shivers down your spine.

Great Horned Owls: Resonating Deep Hoots

Another prominent owl species found in South Carolina is the Great Horned Owl. With its large size and striking appearance, this owl commands attention wherever it goes. But it’s not just their physical presence that makes them stand out; their deep hooting call is equally captivating. The resonating sound of their hoots can be heard throughout their territory, serving as a territorial declaration to other owls and wildlife in the area.

Each owl species in South Carolina contributes to the rich tapestry of sounds that fill the night sky. Whether it’s the distinct “Who cooks for you?” call of the Barred Owl, the eerie whinnying sounds of Hoot Owls, or the resonating deep hoots of Great Horned Owls, these unique calls add to the allure and mystery of South Carolina’s owl population.

So, next time you find yourself in South Carolina at dusk or dawn, take a moment to listen. Close your eyes and let the symphony of owl calls surround you. It’s a truly enchanting experience that connects you with nature in a way like no other.


In conclusion, South Carolina is home to a diverse range of owl species that are both fascinating and beautiful. From the prominent Barred Owl to the common Hoot Owl, the unusual Monkeyfaced Owl, and the majestic Horned Owl, these owls offer a unique glimpse into the wildlife of this region.

One of the most captivating aspects of these owls is their distinct calls. Each species has its own unique vocalizations that add to their charm and mystique. Whether it’s the haunting hoots of the Barred Owl or the piercing screeches of the Horned Owl, listening to these calls can be an unforgettable experience.

To truly appreciate and understand these incredible creatures, take some time to explore South Carolina’s natural habitats. Head out on nature walks or join birdwatching groups where you can witness these owls in their natural environment. Remember to respect their space and observe from a safe distance.

If you’re interested in learning more about owls in South Carolina, there are plenty of resources available online and at local libraries. You can find detailed information about each species, including their habitat preferences, feeding habits, and conservation status.

By understanding and appreciating the owls of South Carolina, we can contribute to their conservation efforts. These magnificent birds play an important role in maintaining ecological balance within our ecosystems.

So why not embark on your own owl adventure? Discover the wonders of South Carolina’s owl population and become part of a community dedicated to preserving our natural heritage for future generations.


Q: Are owls dangerous?

Owls are generally not dangerous unless provoked or threatened. It’s best to admire them from a distance without disturbing their natural behavior.

Q: Can I keep an owl as a pet?

No, it is illegal to keep most owl species as pets without proper permits and licenses. Owls require specific care needs that are best suited for professional wildlife rehabilitators.

Q: How can I attract owls to my backyard?

Creating a suitable habitat with trees, shrubs, and offering nesting boxes can attract owls to your backyard. Providing food sources such as mice and insects can also entice them.

Q: Do all owls hoot?

No, not all owls hoot. While the classic “hoot” is commonly associated with owls, different species have distinct vocalizations that vary from screeches to whistles.

Q: Are there any endangered owl species in South Carolina?

Yes, the Southeastern American Kestrel and the Short-eared Owl are two owl species of conservation concern in South Carolina due to declining populations and habitat loss. Efforts are being made to protect these species and their habitats.

Julian Goldie - Owner of ChiperBirds.com

Julian Goldie

I'm a bird enthusiast and creator of Chipper Birds, a blog sharing my experience caring for birds. I've traveled the world bird watching and I'm committed to helping others with bird care. Contact me at [email protected] for assistance.