Types of Owls in Arkansas (Complete Guide)

With over 600,000 acres of lakes, Arkansas is a diverse habitat ranging from beautiful hot springs, rivers, and lakes, to forests, swamps, prairies, suburbs, and urban areas. With such undeveloped space, it is the ideal location for a diversity of bird species, especially owls. With such a large owl population, you may be wondering, what owls can be found in Arkansas?

Nine owl species are found in the “Natural State” of Arkansas, including the Barn Owl, Barred Owl, Burrowing Owl, Eastern Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Long-eared Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Short-eared Owl, and Snowy Owl. Several of these owl species are permanent residents, while others are much rarer and can be only spotted seasonally.

Keep reading to find out more about these fascinating creatures!

Did you know?

The list of owls below has been compiled from historical sighting reports from various sources. Whilst some of the birds listed are uncommon and hard to spot, we've still included them as they are sometimes seen still in Arkansas.

Barn Owl

Tyto alba

Barn owl
Barn owl in flight
Barn owl on post

Barn Owl on post

Young barn owl

Young Barn Owl

Length:

33cm to 39cm

Wingspan:

80cm to 95cm

Weight:

250g to 350g

Seen :

Uncommon, but rarely seen during winter.

James P, XC621140. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/621140.

Barn Owl

You can spot a Barn Owl year-round across the entire state of Arkansas but are difficult to see. You can identify a Barn Owl by its heart-shaped facial disk, smaller eyes, bare toes, long legs, serrated claws, and short, square tails. Their body color ranges from yellowish-gold to cinnamon.

Barn Owls got their name because of nesting in manmade structures, like barns, where they can spot small rodents for dinner. They typically live in structures on farms or in other rural areas, so it is uncommon to see them in cities or suburbs.

Eastern Screech-Owl

Megascops asio

Eastern screech owl

Eastern Screech-Owl

Eastern screech owl rufous morph

Eastern Screech-Owl (Rufous Morph)

Eastern screech owl sitting in hollow tree

Eastern Screech-Owl in tree hollow

Eastern screech owlets

Eastern Screech-Owl owlets

Length:

16cm to 25cm

Wingspan:

48cm to 61cm

Weight:

170g to 190g

Seen :

All year

Eastern Screech-Owl

As a permanent year-round resident of Arkansas across the state (in most habitats), the Eastern Screech-owl is a small but powerful bird that is about the size of a robin. Their primary diet includes songbirds, rodents, and various insect types. As highly camouflaged birds, they blend well with the surrounding forests so they can swoop down to catch their prey.

If you hear the songbirds fussing and displaying a predator alarm, there could be an Eastern Screech-owl nearby. You can identify the Eastern Screech-Owl by its reddish body with black facial disks, ear tufts, spotted white shoulders, and blotchy-streaked stomachs.

Great Horned Owl

Bubo virginianus

Great horned owl

Great Horned Owl

Great horned owl sitting on tree stump

Great Horned Owl sitting on a tree stump

Great horned owl in flight

Great Horned Owl in flight

Male and female great horned owls

A pair of Great Horned Owls

Length:

46cm to 63cm

Wingspan:

140cm

Weight:

910g to 2.5kg

Seen :

All year

Great Horned Owl

Another permanent year-round resident of Arkansas, the Great Horned Owl is the largest in the state and the most common in North America. They are exactly what we picture when thinking of owls because they are incredibly photogenic. You can recognize these beautiful birds by their yellow eyes, ear tufts, and generous size.

They are the only known bird on Earth that catches and eats skunks but also prays on rodents. They are considered fierce predators and enemies to the Red-tailed Hawk. They can live in a variety of habitats ranging from backyards to forests, so Arkansas is the ideal location to spot one.

Snowy Owl

Bubo scandiacus

Snowy owl

Snowy Owl

Snowy owl in flight

Snowy Owl in flight

Snowy owl landing

Snowy Owl landing

Snowy owl standing in snow

Snowy Owl standing in snow

Length:

53cm to 66cm

Wingspan:

125cm to 166cm

Weight:

710g to 2.95kg

Seen :

Rare, but winter is most likely

Snowy Owl

The graceful and magnificent Snowy Owl is rare for Arkansas and can only be spotted in December or January, but they are pretty rare to come across in Arkansas, but there are historical reports. Since they breed in colder climates, they only come south for two months before returning home.

You can find the Snowy Owl in fields, prairies, beaches, dunes, and marshes. Called the snowy owl because of its pure white feathers that camouflage the bird in the Arctic, this owl nests close to lemmings and other small rodents. However, the Snowy Owl has been known to prey on birds as large as geese.

Burrowing Owl

Athene cunicularia

Burrowing owl head tilt

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing owl

Close up of a Burrowing Owl

Burrowing owl landing

Burrowing Owl coming in to land

Juvenile burrowing owls

A pair of juvenile Burrowing Owls

Length:

19cm to 25cm

Wingspan:

51cm to 61cm

Weight:

170g

Seen :

Uncommon, but between September and April

Burrowing Owl

The second you see the rhythmic head nod; you will know this is a Burrowing Owl. This species is a favorite among bird trackers because of its unique appearance and behavior. They can be found in open country environments and are among the smallest owl species. You can recognize them by their pale brown feathers with white spots. The more spots the owl has, the older it typically is.

Their tails are short and square, and their eyes are a piercing sharp yellow color. When hunting in the day or night, their diet consists of large insects, reptiles, rodents, and fish.

The best time to spot the Burrowing Owl in Arkansas is between September and April, however, they can be fairly rare and uncommon to see.

Barred Owl

Strix varia

Barred owl

Barred Owl

Barred owl in flight

Barred Owl in flight

Barred owl eating crayfish

Barred Owl eating crayfish

Barred owl preening owlet

Barred Owl preening owlet

Length:

43cm to 50cm

Wingspan:

31.5cm to 35.5cm

Weight:

470g to 1.05kg

Seen :

All year

Barred Owl

With a stable population throughout Arkansas, you can observe Barred Owls year-round during the day, but can sometimes be challenging to spot. They can quickly be identified by their call that sounds like, “Who cooks for you, Who cooks for you all?” You will recognize this species by their mottled brown and white marks on their tail and wings. They have unsettling black eyes with pale dark streaks.

The Barred Owl is a non-migratory bird that nests in tree cavities or nest boxes and lives in forests. Their biggest predator is the Great Horned Owl, but they eat small rodents and insects.

Long-Eared Owl

Asio otus

Long eared owl

Length:

35cm to 37cm

Wingspan:

84cm to 95cm

Weight:

210g to 370g

Seen :

Uncommon, but mostly October to April

Long-eared Owl

True to its name, the Long-eared Owl is a medium-sized species that are uncommon in Arkansas. Your best chance to view this bird is between October and April.

It is difficult to spot one because they breed in the northern U.S. and Canada plus, they are stealthy flyers. This makes the Long-ear Owl an excellent nocturnal hunter of mice, rats, other rodents, and insects. They prefer living near the open ground, like fields and marshes, so they can hunt. You can recognize this species by their long ears, sharp yellow eyes, rounded facial disk, spotted underbelly, and striped wings.

Short-Eared Owl

Asio flammeus

Short eared owl close up
Short eared owl

Close up of a Short-Eared Owl

Short eared owl flying

Short-Eared Owl in flight

Short eared owl perched

Perched Short-Eared Owl on a fence post

Short eared owl flying 1

Short-Eared Owl flying

Short eared owl chicks and nest

Nest of a Short-Eared Owl with chicks and eggs

Length:

34cm to 42cm

Wingspan:

90cm to 105cm

Weight:

260g to 350g

Seen :

October to April

Female Short-Eared Owl call

Jarek Matusiak, XC552057. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/552057.

Short-Eared Owl Call

Karl-Birger Strann, XC443556. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/443556.

Short-eared Owl

The best time to spot the Short-eared Owl in Arkansas is in winter when they are not breeding. They typically arrive in October and leave at the end of March, early February. You can commonly find them in brushy areas or open fields around dusk or dawn during their hunting trips.

Interestingly, the Short-eared Owl can be found sitting on the ground waiting for prey. This species can be identified by their short ears, yellow eyes, rounded facial disk, and brown and white patterned feathers.

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Aegolius acadicus

Northern saw whet owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Northern saw whet owl perched

Northern Saw-whet Owl perched in a tree

Northern saw whet owlets

A pair of Northern Saw-whet Owlets

Length:

18cm to 21.5cm

Wingspan:

45cm to 60cm

Weight:

100g

Seen :

Between October and February, but rare

Northern Saw-whet Owl

As one of the smallest birds of prey in the United States and smallest owl in Arkansas, the Northern Saw-whet Owl is rare but may be seen between October and February. However, they are listed on the threatened list in the state, so you may never, unfortunately, see one, as they are becoming rarer.

This species is nocturnal, so they hunt in the forest exceedingly small rodents and insects at night. Unlike other owls, this species consumes mice and other rodents over two meals. They earned the name because their call sounds like a saw being sharpened on a whetting stone.

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