If you live in Arkansas and are an avid birdwatcher, you’ll be delighted to know it’s home to more than 400 species of birds. You might stumble across a wide variety of birds, including hawks, mockingbirds, wild ducks, and more…even owls!
Have you ever been curious about the owls in Arkansas? If you answered yes, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll tell you all about the seven species of owls you might find in this state. Read on to find out more about these magnificent birds’ appearances, eating habits, and where you can see them in the Natural State.
Great Horned Owl
- Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
- Length: 18.1-24.8 inches
- Weight: 32.1-88.2 ounces
- Wingspan: 39.8-57.1 inches
First up is the largest owl in Arkansas: the great horned owl. This owl is very easy to identify because of its distinctive appearance. You may already be familiar with its large size, yellow eyes, and tufts of feathers that look like ears. What makes this owl so popular is that it’s photogenic, so it’s likely you’ve seen it in pictures.
When it comes to this fierce bird of prey’s diet, the owl usually prefers small mammals like mice and rats. However, it will also regularly feed on skunks — it’s the only known bird to do so.
Wondering where to find this owl in Arkansas? Look for it in forests or close to farmlands. You might even see it in the suburbs, quickly distinguishable by its large size.
Great horned owls often go head-to-head with other raptors, including red-tailed hawks. But they have nothing to worry about when it comes to fierce predators in their territories; they’re at the top of the food chain!
- Scientific Name: Tyto alba
- Length: 12.6-15.8 inches
- Weight: 14.1-24.7 ounces
- Wingspan: 39.4-49.2 inches
Barn owls are one of the most widely distributed owl species in the entire world and are permanent residents of Arkansas. But because they don’t like to interact with humans, it’s rare to see them so easily.
These owls have a unique appearance, though, so if you are lucky enough to see one, you’ll recognize it right away. They’re known for their heart-shaped faces and reddish-brown plumage.
Barn owls earned their name because they sometimes nest in barns and other manmade structures. Sadly, there are reports of barn owls’ population decreasing in Arkansas, so, unfortunately, your chances of stumbling upon one do, too.
Barn owls feed on field voles, wood mice, and common shrews, and these mighty beasts like to swallow their prey — especially smaller mammals — whole.
- Scientific Name: Strix varia
- Length: 16.9-19.7 inches
- Weight: 16.6-37 ounces
- Wingspan: 39-43.3 inches
Barred owls are a bit similar to barn owls in looks because of their heart-shaped faces, but this is where the similarities end.
As their name suggests, barred owls have a brown coloring that’s highlighted by white bars, and their undersides are a light shade of brown. Although these beautiful birds are pretty common in Arkansas, they’re pretty hard to spot.
You might get the chance to see one, though, since they roost during the day. Plus, they’re non-migratory, increasing your odds of running into one in the state. To find a barred owl, look in forests, where this owl usually nests in tree cavities, and listen carefully for its unique call, which sounds a bit like it’s saying, “Who cooks for you?”
The barred owl’s diet consists of small mammals: mice, squirrels, shrews, opossums, and rabbits. Furthermore, these birds of prey will occasionally feed on snakes, salamanders, lizards, some insects, and smaller birds.
- Scientific Name: Megascops asio
- Length: 6.3-9.8 inches
- Weight: 4.3-8.6 ounces
- Wingspan: 18.9-24 inches
The eastern screech-owl, one of the smallest owls in Arkansas, is a permanent resident throughout the entire state.
It’s almost as little as a robin, and its brown coloring helps it blend into the trees where it nests. Naturally, that perfect camouflage makes it tricky to find an eastern screech-owl.
Still, if you head to the woods and focus hard enough, you could see one near its nest. Another helpful tip is to listen for the alarms of songbirds, which could be an indication that one of these screech-owls is nearby.
Eastern screech-owls feed primarily on insects, rodents, and songbirds, so you may be able to attract these owls to your yard by installing bird feeders where the songbirds will likely linger. They may also accept a nesting box if you provide one.
Pairs of these small yet powerful raptors mate for life. After spending the winter alone, the males spend each night calling out to attract females beginning in February. When a male and female finally become a pair, they usually end up nesting in the male’s roosting site.
Northern Saw-Whet Owl
- Scientific Name: Aegolius acadius
- Length: 7.1-8.3 inches
- Weight: 2.3-5.3 ounces
- Wingspan: 16.5-18.9 inches
The northern saw-whet owl has a non-breeding range throughout the entire state of Arkansas. This tiny owl is the smallest bird of prey in the U.S., and it’s one of the most common owls in the northern parts of North America.
Yet, because the saw-whet owl is listed as threatened in Arkansas, it can be especially hard to find. Additionally, this little owl is always active at night, and it’s highly elusive, making it even harder for a birdwatcher to spot. As for its appearance, the saw-whet owl has light-brown and white feathers all over its body and large, keen eyes that are definitely hard to miss.
Wondering about its name? Well, one of its calls is quite similar to the sound produced by sharpening a saw on a whetting stone.
Rodents, squirrels, insects, and small birds are a favorite of the northern saw-whet owl. Using its attentive eyes and swift hunting skills, this owl captures its prey in the dead of night.
- Scientific Name: Asio otus
- Length: 13.8-15.8 inches
- Weight: 7.8-15.3 ounces
- Wingspan: 35.4-39.4 inches
What makes long-eared owls so easily to identify are their characteristically long ears (which makes perfect sense, given this bird’s name). These beautiful creatures roost in large numbers during the winter, giving you a better chance of catching a glimpse of them.
Just like most owls, the long-eared owl is an excellent nocturnal predator. It usually goes for small mammals, like voles, deer mice, shrews, rabbits, and rats, but sometimes the bird will eat birds, lizards, snakes, and salamanders.
These powerful beats use multiple hunting techniques to catch their prey. For instance, they might hunt from tree perches, or they could hover over their prey to catch them unaware. A long-eared owl prefers to kill mammals by biting them from the back of their skulls.
To find a long-eared owl, your best bet is to look for it in forests and open grasslands during the winter.
- Scientific Name: Asio flammeus
- Length: 13.4-16.9 inches
- Weight: 7.3-16.8 ounces
- Wingspan: 33.5-40.5 inches
Much like their long-eared cousins, short-eared owls have a non-breeding range in Arkansas. You’ll have a higher chance of finding them in the winter because they arrive in this state by late November and leave by mid-March.
These owls are simple to recognize by taking a look at their rather short ears. Plus, they have medium-sized bodies with alternating brown, tan, and white markings all over them. Combine all that with their sharp, yellow eyes, and you’ll get an appearance that’s hard to forget.
Short-eared owls are mostly active at dusk and dawn, hunting for mice and other small mammals. They tend to wait for their prey from high tree branches, then swoop down swiftly to capture it. Sometimes, they’ll fly low over the ground and snatch their victims from above.
The best places to look for short-eared owls are near open fields and grasslands. Luckily, they can be seen anywhere in Arkansas, as long as you know where and when to search for them.
Yet, the population of short-eared owls has been in decline for the last few years because their natural habitat has been lost to development. As a result, these beautiful creatures are considered endangered in Arkansas.
Wrapping It Up
Because Arkansas is a state where many wild bird species thrive, it’s no surprise that seven species of owls have made themselves at home there. Interestingly enough, owls in Arkansas have various sizes, appearances, mannerisms, and hunting skills.
To witness one of these owls in action, all you’ll have to do is pay a visit to its habitat and look for more signs. It could be a unique call, a special hunting technique, or more.
Wondering what other wild birds you can see in this state? You’ll probably love to learn more about the eight woodpeckers in Arkansas! Check them out here.