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Florida Owls: 8 Favorite Nocturnal Birds Of The Sunny State

Last Updated on: June 8, 2024

When someone mentions Florida, most people will instantly think about its beaches and theme parks. 


It is more than just a place to get a tan or experience the thrill of adventurous rides. 

The Sunshine State is home to over 500 species of birds, including Florida owls. 

It is a prime destination for resident and migratory owls, making it a great spot for bird watching. 

With too many species, however, Florida owls’ identification can be confusing for the uninitiated. Read on as I share some of the species that you will find in the state. 

The Most Common Owls in Florida 

1. Great Horned Owl 

Great Horned Owl

Being the largest owl in Florida, it has a length of up to 25 inches. Meanwhile, it has a commanding presence as it flies with a wingspan of up to 49 inches. 

Majestic and fierce, this is the first bird that most people think of when an owl is mentioned. You can find it around North America, including Florida. 

Its large body is complemented by its big yellow eyes and tall ear tufts, making them easy to recognize.  

These big owls in Florida can live almost anywhere in the state. They are not picky, but it is most common to see their nest in rocky areas and trees with dense canopies. 

2. Barn Owl 

Barn Owl
Barn Owl

Also known as a monkey-faced owl, ghost owl, and church owl, it is most recognizable for its heart-shaped face with a dark-brown color on the edges. 

Amongst all the owls in Central Florida, it is one with the most sensitive hearing. The shape of its face will direct sound to its ears, making it more efficient when hunting its prey. Barn owls hunt bats and find animals under the grass through hearing! 

Being non-migratory, you will find these raptors in Florida throughout the year. The most common habitats are abandoned barns, which explains their name. 

3. Barred Owl 

Barred Owl
Barred Owl

Also known as a hoot owl, you will find these birds throughout Florida. They are territorial year-round. 

The body of a barred owl has an average length of 16 to 25 inches. Meanwhile, its barred brown and white wings can span as wide as 49 inches.

These owls of Florida have a rounded head and tail. The eyes are black and have no ear tufts. As for the plumage, they have white and brown mottled patterns that are vertical on the belly and horizontal on the upper chest and back. 

They often perch on the top of trees looking for small animals to hunt, including rabbits and squirrels. 

4. Eastern Screech Owl 

Eastern Screech Owl

You will find these Central Florida owls in the state throughout the year, especially in small tree cavities. They also adapt to nest boxes, making it easy to attract them to your backyard. 

The eastern screech owl is the smallest owl that you will find in Florida. On average, its length is only 6.3 to 9.8 inches. 

One of the smallest and most picturesque owls in The Sunshine State, it has a length of only seven to nine inches Like its length, the wingspan is equally minuscule at only17 to 22 inches.

5. Northern Saw-Whet Owl 

Northern Saw-Whet Owl 
Northern Saw-Whet Owl 

One of the smallest and most picturesque owls in The Sunshine State, it has a length of only seven to nine inches and a wingspan of 17 to 22 inches. 

These rare owls in South Florida have a compact body but large and round heads. Their body is a rich brown with small white spots on the top and white streaks underneath. It is also recognizable for its Y shape from its brows to the bill, which makes its yellow eyes more prominent. 

As nocturnal owls, these South Florida owls rely on their sensitive hearing to hunt prey. They can detect the sounds of rodents, which make up most of their diet. They also eat small birds, insects, and bats.

6. Short-Eared Owl 

Short-Eared Owl

These owls in North Florida can be seen during the day, although they are rare in the state. They hunt in the early morning and dusk. 

The name of the bird is a hint of what it looks like. 

It is most recognizable for the small ear tufts that crown its small head. When it hunts, the short eared owl often sits low on the ground. Once it catches its prey, it flies before swooping down. 

They prefer hunting on open grounds, and you can see them even at airports. These owls also prefer marshes and fields.

7. Burrowing Owl 

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl

You will find them living in a burrow that serves as the ground-dwelling of other animals, such as squirrels. With its status as State-Designated Threatened, the sighting of these types of Florida owls is a rare occurrence. 

These are some of the most unique Florida owl species because they are the only ones nesting exclusively on the ground. 

It has an average height of nine inches and a wingspan of 21 inches, making it one of the common targets for birdwatchers looking for small owls in Florida. 

8. Snowy Owl 

Snowy Owl

Technically speaking, Florida is not a part of the natural habitat of these birds. However, they found their way to the southern parts of the state in previous years, so they deserve a spot on our list. 

As it is named, the snowy owl has a commanding white plumage that makes it unmistakable. There are dark spots on its upper body, which are more prominent among the female varieties. 

They live in the Arctic tundra and survive during the winter.

How they found their way to Florida still perplexes most bird watchers since this species prefers living in a cold habitat!

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do you attract owls in Florida?

Attracting owls in The Alligator State is possible by creating nest boxes, especially in hollow tree cavities. A birdbath will also help. Plus, make sure that they have food to encourage their presence. Having a dense canopy and thick grass can also help, which will mimic the environment in a forest, which is their natural habitat. 

Do owls in Florida attack humans?

It is rare for Florida owls to attack humans, especially if you are not doing anything to disturb their habitats. One of the rarest instances, when they attack, is when you destroy their nesting sites. It is a natural reaction for these raptors as they defend their territory. 

What is the size of the biggest owl in Florida?

The biggest of the Florida owl species is the great horned owl, which has a length of 16 to 25 inches and a wingspan of 38 to 49 inches. Meanwhile, its weight ranges from 500 to 1,250 grams. 


Are there owls in Florida? 

Yes! Definitely! 

From small to large, residents to migratory, you will find various owls in the state. Many of them prefer forests and other uninhabited areas, but they can occasionally flock to private properties as well. 

Are there owls native to Florida that you would like to add to this list? Let us know in the comments!

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