There are eight different species of owl that you may encounter when in the state of Ohio, these are: the Barn Owl, the Eastern-Screech Owl, the Great Horned Owl, the Snowy Owl, the Barred Owl, the Long-eared Owl, the Short-eared Owl and the Northern Saw-whet Owl.
The Great Horned owl has the largest range out of these species and is the one that you are most likely to see in the state.
Ohio has a largely continental climate, but areas in the south have been classified as having a sub-tropical climate. This means that most of the state has quite humid weather, especially in summer.
In Ohio there are 75 different state parks and 8 national park sites. After looking briefly at the state of Ohio, the rest of this article will be looking at each owl species you may find there in more detail.
What Owls can be seen in Ohio?
Table of Contents
1. Barn Owl
107 to 110 cm
430 – 620 g
Up to 4 years
Voles, Shrews & Mice
These owls are almost always strictly nocturnal and are medium in size. Their bellies and face are covered in white feathers whilst their back and wings are a shade of pale brown.
They have a wide range that encompasses 48 of the states and they can most commonly be seen in their grassland habitats.
These birds have been known to nest in tree cavities as well as in large buildings. Barn owls will usually mate for life and they will remain monogamous to their partner during the breeding season.
However, there have been observed instances of males mating with more than one female. Males will court females using a display flight that involves what is called a “moth flight” which is where they will hover in flight in front of a female.
These owls are year-round residents in the state of Ohio, they are most active during their breeding season and can be seen throughout all regions of the state. The most recorded sightings of this owl have been in the central regions of the state.
2. Eastern Screech Owl
46 to 61 cm
Rats, Squirrels, Rabbits & Skunks
The Eastern-Screech Owl is small for an owl and its impressive combination of grey feathers allow it to camouflage well against a variety of trees.
These birds are most commonly found in dense forests, the main requirement for them is that they have sufficient tree cover.
This is also a species that has greatly benefited from nest boxes. These owls are most active during the night but will also hunt at dawn and dusk if necessary.
Both the males and females look after their young and most Eastern-Screech owls will only mate with one female, though some will mate with a select two.
Males spend their time defending their territory and hunt by only making short flights from one observatory perch to another.
As you may expect from the name, the range of this owl encompasses mostly eastern states, and therefore they can be seen throughout all of Ohio. They are also permanent residents in the state and most of the recorded sightings for this owl have been to the north of the state.
3. Great Horned Owl
Rabbits, voles and mice.
These owls do not actually have horns, but instead they have large ear tufts which is where they get their name. Their face is usually brown in colour whilst their bodies are covered in mostly grey feathers.
These owls can be found across almost all of north America and are most often seen in woodland areas. They have also been seen in various urban areas and cities.
Great Horned Owls mate monogamously and both individuals from the breeding pair will defend their territory with a series of hooting noises.
They have been known to get into fights with intruders that are not deterred by their hooting and have even been recorded killing members of their own species.
Different bird species will often harass these owls in an attempt to get them to leave their nest and their eggs unprotected.
The widespread range of this bird does encompass the whole state of Ohio. They are also present in the state throughout the whole year. They are abundant in all areas, but most sightings appear to be in the north west of the state.
4. Northern Saw-whet Owl
40 - 60 cm
Small birds, young squirrels, voles & shrews
The Northern Saw-Whet Owl is a very small species of owl, they are known for their big round head and wide orange eyes.
They have pale underbellies and their backs and wings are covered in brown feathers. These birds have a very large range and will almost always nest in dense forests, they seem to prefer staying in mature forests if they are able to.
They nest in denser forests during both the winter seasons and breeding seasons. The monogamy of this owl can depend on prey abundance.
Whilst most males are completely monogamous, in seasons of high prey abundance, some males have been known to mate with another individual.
These breeding pairs are not long lasting as they will mate with new individuals in each subsequent breeding season.
Because of their small size, these owls are also often preyed on by a variety of larger owl species, including several that we have previously looked at in this article.
These owls are most frequently spotted in Ohio outside of their breeding seasons and they can be seen across all of the state.
That being said, in certain regions to the north of the state, these birds appear to occasionally stay in the state throughout the whole year.
These birds have a similar level of abundance across all the state, but they appear to be less in number in the southern regions of Ohio.
5. Short-Eared Owl
85 to 110 cm
Voles, Mice, Squirrels
Much like the Long-Eared Owl, it is easy to guess where this bird’s name came from.
It has incredibly small ears that cannot be seen as they have no ear tufts at all. These owls are medium in size and have brown feather spotted with buff that cover all of their bodies.
Short-Eared Owls make their habitats in large areas of open grasslands. During the breeding season, these owls have been recorded to be active at all hours of the day and night.
The male’s primary role after mating is to protect the female whilst she incubates the eggs. They will do this by performing distraction displays to intruding individuals to deter them away from their nesting site.
This bird has a very wide range and they are year-round residents in Ohio, but only in a small region.
To the north west, you can see this bird in Ohio throughout the whole year. But in the other regions of the state these birds can only be seen outside of their breeding seasons.
6. Snowy Owl
Birds, Rabbits, Fish & Rodents
The Snowy Owl, as you may expect, is covered in completely white feathers that works as highly effective camouflage against snow.
As these birds often like to sit on the ground before a hunt, they are most often found in open areas of land such as the tundra.
Despite appearing to do a great deal of sitting, these owls are not lazy. They are very territorial and have aggressive displays that they will perform to other owls that stray too far into their territory.
There have also been recorded incidents of Snowy Owls dive bomb attacking humans that they have perceived as threats.
These birds are not very common in Ohio as they tend to stay in areas further north of the state.
That being said, they have been known to move south during the winter months when it gets extremely cold. In these months they have been seen to the far north of the state of Ohio.
7. Long Eared Owl
90 to 100cm
Small mammals, mice, rats & rabbits
It is not surprising that these owls get their name from their long, pointed ear tufts.
These medium sized owls have orange faces and dark feathered bodies. The habitat of this owl varies, they can be found in both open grasslands and coniferous woodlands.
These birds have been known to form loosely structured colonies that often make their nests within 50ft of one another.
Outside of the breeding seasons the size of this colony will increase, sometimes reaching a number of 100 individuals. Males remain monogamous and begin courting a female during the late winter, before the colonies are fully formed.
There is speculation as to whether these breeding pairs are long-term or if a male will mate with a different individual from the colony in subsequent seasons.
These owls have a wide range across the United States and can be seen throughout all of Ohio.
However, they are not year-round residents of the state and can only be seen outside of their breeding seasons. There appear to be less sightings of this owl to the south of Ohio compared to other regions.
8. Barred Owl
The Barred Owl is so named because of the bar patterned feathers that cover its body.
These bars are usually brown and white in colour. Their habitats consist of woodlands that are usually close to areas of water. These areas can range from swamps to coastlines. Barred Owls hunt during the night and will roost in the daytime.
Whilst smaller birds, such as woodpeckers, see these owls as predators, Barred Owls are common prey for a variety of species including the aforementioned Great Horned Owl.
If a human moves in too close to a Barred Owl’s nest they have been known to sometimes attack or flee, leaving their nest and eggs to be mobbed by smaller species of birds.
These birds have a wide range across the eastern states, and they are permanent residents in Ohio.
They can be found in all regions of the state and are most active during their breeding seasons.
Most Barred Owl sightings have been recorded to the north east regions of the state.
We are avid bird-watchers who recently retired, allowing us more time to travel the world. Fortunately, we have managed to visit numerous countries around Europe, Asia, and America. Watching and photographing birds has been a passion for many years and we are making the most of the extra time on our hands!