Owls

Owls are amazing! More often heard than seen, these nocturnal birds are super predators. Learn more:

  • Six of the 19 owl species found in North America regularly nest in Wisconsin. Two more, the barn owl and the great gray owl, have historically been recorded here but quite rare. Snowy, boreal and northern hawk owls are occasional winter visitors.
  • The great gray owl is the tallest owl in Wisconsin and North America and has the largest wing span, up to 60 inches.
  • The smallest owl is the northern saw-whet, which tips the scales (barely) at 2 to 5 ounces. Saw-whets are most often seen during migration here on their way to their core nesting area in Canada's boreal forests.
  • Owls' eyes are fixed in their sockets, so their whole head moves as they shift their gaze. The necks of some species can turn up to 270 degrees.
  • Owls' large forward facing eyes give them the best stereoscopic vision of all birds, which is vital for judging distances.
  • Owls' ear openings are relatively huge and often asymmetrically positioned, which means sound is slightly delayed in reaching one and thus its source can be pinpointed. Some owls have prominent facial disks that funnel sound into their ears. These adaptations account for their incredible hearing.
  • Owls are efficient nighttime hunters that strike from above, and use their powerful talons to kill and carry animals several times heavier than themselves. Some owls are crepuscular, meaning they are most active during dawn and dusk.
  • Owls often use nests built by other bird species. Tree cavities and dead trees, or snags, are other common nesting sites.   Peek in on a great horned owl's nest in Georgia with this Cornell Lab of Ornithology live cam . (This site loads slowly but is usually worth the wait.)
  • Owls swallow their prey whole and later spit up a "pellet," a 1-2 inch hairball with bones and skulls in it, things the bird's stomach can't digest.
  • Owls are known as stealthy predators. They can fly inches from their prey without being detected. Check out the PBS video:   Owl Shows Off Silent Flight Superpower .

Barn Owl

Great Grey Owl

Snowy Owl

Northern Hawk Owl

Great Horned Owl

Boreal Owl

Barred Owl

Screech Owl

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