The Owl is undeniably one of the world’s most famous birds of prey. It’s also synonymous with fairytale and folklore, adding to its mystique and majesty.
Below, we’re going to take a look at 14 types of Owl you can find in Texas.
We’ll explore their characteristics, habitats, diets, and more. By the time you’ve finished reading, you won’t only know what species you can find in Texas – you’ll know exactly where to look!
In a rush? We’ve got you covered! Here’s a quick-reference list of all 14 Owl species you can find in Texas:
- Barn Owl
- Western Screech Owl
- Eastern Screech Owl
- Short-Eared Owl
- Long-Eared Owl
- Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
- Spotted Owl
- Great Horned Owl
- Snowy Owl
- Barred Owl
- Northern Saw-whet Owl
- Burrowing Owl
- Flammulated Owl
- Elf Owl
Now, let’s take a closer look at each of these magnificent Owl species in more detail.
We’re kicking things off with one of the most famous and recognizable species of Owl on the planet – the Barn Owl.
You can identify the Barn Owl by its light brown and gray upperparts and wings, which are speckled with black-bordered white dots.
It also has white underparts and a heart-shaped face covered with white feathers. In terms of size, the Barn Owl measures around 14-inches in length and has an average wingspan of 3.5ft.
You can spot the Barn Owl in Texas all year round and they also have a pretty varied habitat, ranging from woodlands to haylofts.
Some have even been found nesting in chimneys and, of course, they are well-known for nesting and roosting in barns.
Like almost all species of Owl, the Barn Owl is a nocturnal bird and does all of its hunting by night.
Its prey consists of small mammals such as mice, rats, and voles which they are able to locate in the dark with their keen night vision.
They also utilize their unique face shape to use echolocation to scout out their prey.
Western Screech Owl
As you may have guessed from their name, the Western Screech Owl is famous for its call which, unlike the cartoon-like “hoot hoot” associated with most species of owl, resonates as a loud, screeching sound.
In fact, their screech is so loud that you’re much more likely to hear a Western Screech Owl long before you see one!
If you do think you have been lucky enough to spot this magnificent bird of prey, you can identify it by the small ear tufts and large, black eyes.
To make spotting them a little more difficult, the Western Screech Owl can have one of three different feathers colors; gray, red, or brown!
Regardless of color, however, they all have a small black beak, measure around 8.5-inches in length, and have an average wingspan of 22-inches.
Another nocturnal bird, the Western Screech Owl spends its days resting in the cover of tree canopies within dense woodland.
Come nightfall, they start their hunt and use their keen night vision to search out small mammals to feed on including mice, voles, and rats.
Eastern Screech Owl
While the Western Screech Owl is found in the West of Texas, the Eastern Screech Owl is only ever found in Eastern Texas.
Here, it resides in dense woodland, using the trees within to nest and shelter during the day.
This isn’t its exclusive habitat though, and some Eastern Screech Owls have been known to set up home in tall trees within parks and gardens.
Just like its Western cousin, the Eastern Screech Owl can display different colored feathers; gray morph and red morph.
They also have small ear tufts and large, yellow eyes. Something that separates them from the Western Screech Owl, however, is their size.
They are much smaller, measuring around just 6-inches on average, making them one of the smallest species of Owl in the world!
This small size does mean that the Eastern Screech Owl has a limited choice of prey compared to other owl species.
Hunting by night, their prey consists of small reptiles, small bugs, and some smaller mammals.
They have also been known to feed on small fish, snatching them out of the water with expert skill as they glide across the surface.
Another species of Owl with a self-explanatory name, the Short-Eared Owl can be identified by its stocky build, round head with no visible ear tufts, and mottled dark-brown upperparts.
It also has a lighter brown chest and belly, bright yellow eyes, and pale feet that are tipped with razor sharp black talons.
Unlike many of Texas’ Owl species, the Short-Eared Owl is a winter visitor to the State.
You’re very unlikely to find one from spring to fall as it heads to slightly cooler temperatures for the breeding season.
However, come late fall, it returns to take advantage of Texas’ warmer winter temperatures.
You’re most likely to spot a Short-Eared Owl in its preferred habitat of meadows, grasslands, and large forest clearings.
In each of these habitats, the Short-Eared Owl spends the day resting in the safety of the trees before taking to the skies at night in search of food.
The Short-Eared Owl’s prey consists of shrews, voles, mice, and other small animals, which it locates using its amazing night vision.
One of the most distinctive Owl species on our list, the Long-Eared Owl is instantly recognizable thanks to its namesake long ear tufts which are jet black and bordered with rust-orange plumage.
It also has a rough, rust-orange colored face along with dark brown and orange mottled feathers that cover the entire of its body.
In terms of size, the Long-Eared Owl measures around 14-inches in length and has an average wingspan of 38-inches.
The Long-Eared Owl isn’t a very common sight in Texas, although it is most commonly spotted during the winter months.
The main reason for this is because it heads further North for the breeding season, returning in the fall to spend the winter months in warmer temperatures.
Like most other species of Owl, the Long-Eared Owl is a night hunter and soars very close to the ground in near-silence, scoping out small rodents to snatch up with its sharp claws to feed on.
The Long-Eared Owl’s preferred habitat is pine woodlands, and here they make a home in an abandoned nest where they’ll spend the day sheltering and resting until nightfall.
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
One of the smallest species of Owl you’ll find in Texas, the Ferruginous Pygmy Owl measures just 6.5-inches in length and has an average wingspan of 15-inches.
This small size isn’t its only identifying feature though, as it also has dark orange feathers on its upperparts, wings, head, and breast.
Its underparts are also mottled with the same dark orange, contrasting beautifully with the pale white underlying feathers.
Most commonly found in Southern Texas, the Ferruginous Pygmy Owl’s preferred habitat is dense woodlands and forests.
Here, they shelter high up in the canopy of the trees for safety which, despite their abundance in this area, means they can be quite tricky to spot!
As with the Eastern Screech Owl, the Ferruginous Pygmy Owl’s smaller size does mean that its diet is limited to smaller creatures.
Its prey mainly consists of small reptiles, grasshoppers, and scorpions. It is also known to feed on smaller songbirds when food becomes very scarce.
While the Ferruginous Pygmy Owl is one of the smallest on our list, the Spotted Owl sits at the other end of the scale altogether.
Measuring a whopping 1.5-ft in length and with a huge average wingspan of 4-ft, the Spotted Owl’s size is one of its biggest identifying features.
It also has a heart shaped, light gray face and dark brown feathers across the rest of its body spotted with white, and these are the markings that give it its name.
The Spotted Owl’s preferred habitat is mixed woodland and dense forests.
It was, at one point, found quite commonly across most of Texas but due to deforestation leading to competition for territory, the Spotted Owl is now only found in Western Texas.
It is also known to prefer habitats at a higher elevation, often setting up homes as high as 7,000 feet above sea level.
Nighttime hunters, the Spotted Owl has a good choice of prey to choose from thanks to its large size.
Bats, reptiles, small birds, and small mammals all make it onto the menu and the Spotted Owl is able to hunt these creatures with expert skill thanks to its remarkable night vision.
Great Horned Owl
If you thought the Spotted Owl’s size was impressive, it pales in comparison to the Great Horned Owl who stands at an incredible 2-ft high!
It also has two tall, impressive ear tufts atop its head (from which it takes its name), mottled gray-brown plumage, a white neck, rust-orange face, and huge, yellow eyes. It has a massive 4-ft wingspan as well, helping it glide through the night sky with ease!
The Great Horned Owl is Texas’ largest species of Owl, and it can be found all year round. It is most commonly spotted during fall and winter though, as it heads a little further out of its territory in search of prey.
Woodlands and swampy areas are the Great Horned Owl’s prefered habitat and, during their January breeding season, they make use of abandoned Hawk nests to raise their brood in.
They also hunt in these areas by night, using their large yellow eyes to navigate through the pitch black in search of rabbits, skunks, gophers, and squirrels to feed on.
The Snowy Owl is one of the most famous Owl species in the world, thanks in large part to “Hedwig” from the Harry Potter novels.
They are also one of the most recognizable, covered with bright white feathers barred with dark brown, a round, white face, and two large, orange eyes.
Size-wise, the Snowy Owl can reach up to 2-ft in length and has an average wingspan of 4.5-ft.
While not incredibly common in Texas, there have been sightings of the Snowy Owl throughout the years.
Most of the time, however, they are found in their native home of Arctic Tundra, where their white markings help them blend in perfectly with the snowy surroundings.
As with the Great Horned Owl, the Snowy Owl’s larger size means that it is capable of hunting larger prey.
This includes rabbits and lemmings, although they aren’t particularly fussy eaters and will also prey on smaller birds and small rodents.
Most commonly found in Eastern Texas, the Barred Owl is a smaller species measuring around 20-inches in length and with an average wingspan of 43-inches.
You can identify the Barred Owl by its brown and white mottled feathers, tuftless head, and pale, heart-shaped face. It also has large, black eyes and bright yellow beak.
The best place to spot the Barred Owl is in its preferred habitat of deciduous and evergreen forests with plenty of trees to shelter in during the day.
They very rarely stray from these areas either, so if you do want to check the Barred Owl off your bird watching list you’ll need to make a special trip out!
Another nighttime hunter, the Barred Owl preys on mice, squirrels, small reptiles, small birds, and chipmunks.
Despite their small size, the Barred Owl has also been known to feed on some larger birds, such as Grouse.
Northern Saw-whet Owl
The Northern Saw-whet Owl is one Texas’ rarest species of Owl. It isn’t impossible to find though, and a trip to their preferred habitat or coniferous or mixed woodland is a great place to start if you’d like to see this majestic bird of prey in the wild.
You’ll need keen eyes though, as not only does the Northern Saw-whet Owl take shelter in abandoned Woodpecker holes, it’s also a tiny Owl that measures just 8-inches in length.
If you do think you’ve been lucky enough to spot the Northern Saw-whet Owl, the best way to identify it is by looking for its large, yellow eyes.
These take up almost a third of its head, which is also covered with pale brown and white mottled feathers. These same colored markings are found across the rest of their bodies as well.
Like most Owl species, the Northern Saw-whet Owl hunts by night under the cover of darkness.
This is where its large eyes come in handy, taking in as much light as possible and giving them amazing night vision.
The Northern Saw-whet Owl’s prey consists mainly of Deer Mice, although any small rodent they can snatch up in their small but powerful claws makes a good meal!
One thing that makes the Burrowing Owl stand out from most other Owl species is that it is active both during the day and at night time.
You can often spot a Burrowing Owl scurrying around in pastures, meadows, and fields in the middle of the day, and they are most abundant in the Texas Panhandle area and Western Texas.
This daytime activity is one of the Burrowing Owl’s biggest identifying characteristics.
However, you can also identify it by its pale underparts, dark brown and light gray dotted upperparts, and light brown head.
It also has a pale face with two large yellow eyes, and a long pale line above the eyes that gives the appearance of one large eyebrow.
Definitely not the largest species of Owl you’ll find in Texas, the Burrowing Owl measures around 10-inches in length and has an average wingspan of 22-inches.
Another thing that makes the Burrowing Owl stand out from the crowd is their nesting and roosting habit.
While most other Owl species take shelter in the safety of abandoned Woodpecker holes or high in the trees, the Burrowing Owl reuses the nest of small burrowing animals.
And, it’s this nesting habit that gives them their name.
Small rodents and small insects make up the majority of the Burrowing Owl’s diet, which are pretty easy to come by on the ground.
And, of critical importance, the Burrowing Owl’s daytime and nighttime hunting techniques gives them a great amount of success when it comes to hunting.
Resident in Texas all year round, the Flammulated Owl is most easily identified by the light gray feathers striped with dark brown that cover the entire of its body.
It also has large, black eyes, stands 6-inches tall, and has an average wingspan of 14-inches.
It takes its name from its appearance, with “Flammulated” meaning flame-like, calling more to the pattern of the markings than the color.
These flammulated markings also provide excellent camouflage for the Flammulated Owl, keeping it hidden and well-protected as it rests during the day.
The Flammulated Owl is most commonly found roosting in the treetops of coniferous forests and this means, along with their camouflage markings, they can be quite difficult to find.
Nighttime hunters, the Flammulated Owl leaves its treetop home to scour the ground for small insects and rodents to feed on.
Their dark markings also help them with their nighttime hunting, making them almost impossible to detect as they soar silently through the air.
We finish up our list of Owl species you can find in Texas with the Elf Owl. One of the smallest birds of prey in the world, the Elf Owl measures around 5-inches in length and has an average wingspan of just 10.5-inches.
It can be identified by their distinctive white and black barred feathers, dark gray neck, and pure white, heart-shaped face.
The Elf Owl also has large, yellow eyes that help them hunt by night.
Southwestern Texas, Western Texas, and the Chihuahuan Desert are where you’re most likely to spot an Elf Owl.
Here, they hunt from small reptiles and insects to feed on. They also nest in these areas, often reusing abandoned Ladderback Woodpecker holes to set up their homes in.
As you can see, there are 14 different types of Owls you can spot in Texas. Most are resident year round, while others only visit during the winter to take advantage of Texas’ warmer temperatures.
Some are also quite common, while others are much more elusive. One thing is for certain, though – follow the advice we’d outlined above, reference each of their identifying characteristics, and you’ll have a much easier time determining what species of Owl you’ve just seen soaring through the Texan skies!