With New England’s longest fall foliage season and the 280 regularly occurring bird species in the state (173 of which are confirmed year-round breeders), Connecticut is truly an interesting place to visit.
If you’re a big fan of Greek mythology, you know the goddess Athena is often depicted with an owl to symbolize wisdom, and if you’re a big fan of owls, you’ll be happy to know you can find 12 species of the beautiful, wise birds in Connecticut!
In this article, we’ll talk about these birds of prey you can find in the state’s meadows, grasslands, cliffs, and woodlands. Let’s dive in!
- Scientific Name: Strix varia
- Length: 16-25 inches
- Weight: 16.6-37 ounces
- Wingspan: 38-49 inches
The barred owl gets its name from its barred underparts and the horizontal bars it wears on its upper chest. It also has dark brown eyes and mottled white and brown plumage that keep it well-hidden among the trees.
Barred owls’ preferred habitat is mature forests, where they hunt small animals and rodents at night while staying quiet most of the day. They prefer to build their nests in tree cavities, but you can attract a breeding pair to your backyard if you set up a suitable nest box.
This owl’s distinctive call is the classic sound of the old forest.
- Scientific Name: Megascops asio
- Length: 6.3-9.8 inches
- Weight: 4.3-8.6 ounces
- Wingspan: 18-24 inches
Eastern screech-owls are common in all types of forests, and if you’re interested in locating this bird species, you’ll definitely be able to hear its distinctive call at night. Its call will lead you to an owl with interesting yellow eyes and a complex patterned grey or reddish plumage that helps camouflage the bird while it’s among the tree bark.
The owl’s diet includes small mammals, birds, juicy insects, and amphibians, and if you set up a nest box for a breeding pair, it might be attracted to your backyard. Songbirds can help you find this owl, as they usually call out to other members of the flock to notify them of the owl’s presence.
Great Horned Owl
- Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
- Length: 17-25 inches
- Weight: 32-88 ounces
- Wingspan: 3-5 feet
The great horned owl is covered in mottled grey-brown feathers and sports a reddish face and a white patch on its throat. The owl’s earlike tufts and yellow eyes give it a distinguished look.
Just like most other nocturnal species, the great horned owl can be seen at dusk sitting on fences and tree limbs. It prefers to live in open areas and around swamps and orchards, and if you want to set up a nest box for a breeding pair, make sure it’s well-guarded to protect the eggs and young birds.
This owl is a strong predator, able to take down prey that’s a lot larger than itself, including falcons and other owls.
- Scientific Name: Bubo scandiacus
- Length: 20-25 inches
- Weight: 2.9-5.5 pounds
- Wingspan: 46-65 inches
The snowy owl, also known as the arctic owl, is one of the largest owls in the world. It’s pure white except for the black markings on its body and wings that are more prominent in females.
Because of its white plumage, this owl looks a little like a snowball when it’s on the ground, but the bird’s bright yellow eyes make it easy to spot. It often perches on fence posts and telephone lines, but it usually prefers to fly close to the ground.
The best time to spot a snowy owl is during the winter months when it’s trying to catch lemmings, rats, moles, squirrels, and other small animals. You might also catch a glimpse of one in coastal areas.
Unlike other species of owls, the snowy bird is diurnal.
- Scientific Name: Surnia ulula
- Length: 14.2-16.7 inches
- Weight: about 11 ounces
- Wingspan: about 18 inches
Northern hawk-owls look like an owl with its yellow eyes, oval brown and white spotted body, and round face, but they behave like a hawk as they hunt by day and perch on trees.
This owl can detect prey that’s about half a mile away, and it hunts by night and flies low to the ground. It also tends to be afraid of humans.
The northern hawk-owl prefers areas with spruce trees where it eats voles and occasional shrews and a variety of birds, especially during the winter. Find this owl nesting in cavities that were created by woodpeckers or naturally occurring in decayed or broken tree trunks.
- Scientific Name: Athene cunicularia
- Length: 7.5-11 inches
- Weight: 4.9-8.5 ounces
- Wingspan: 20-24 inches
The burrowing owl is a small bird with sandy-colored plumage and bright eyes. Just as its name makes clear, it usually lives in burrows it has dug underground. Unlike most owls, in which females are larger than males, this species of birds doesn’t show any difference in size between sexes.
You can find the burrowing owl in open habitats with sparse vegetation like golf courses, grasslands, and cemeteries where it spends most of its time on the ground catching insects, lizards, and small mammals. There are a couple of times of day when your chances of seeing this bird species are higher: in the early morning and late evening.
Great Gray Owl
- Scientific Name: Strix nebulosa
- Length: 24-33 inches
- Weight: 2.2-2.84 pounds
- Wingspan: about 5 feet
The great gray owl has silvery gray feathers and shiny, light yellow eyes. It usually tries to avoid attention and people, so it hunts at night and in the hours before dawn.
Although you can build a nest structure to attract a breeding pair, there’s a little chance you’ll see the great gray owl. But if you’re an avid birdwatcher who’s actively searching for one, look in open areas with scattered trees where it will likely be searching for small mammals and rodents to eat.
- Scientific Name: Asio otus
- Length: 12-16 inches
- Weight: 7.8-15.3 ounces
- Wingspan: 34-40 inches
Long-eared owls are dark birds with orange faces. They have black and orange-fringed ear tufts, and their plumage makes them quite difficult to detect.
If you want to locate the long-eared owl, pay attention to the long hoots you’ll hear at night. It’s pretty active during that time, as it’s hunting mammals, rodents, bats, and some small birds. During the day, however, this owl roosts in dense trees.
- Scientific Name: Asio flammeus
- Length: 13-17 inches
- Weight: 7.3-16.8 ounces
- Wingspan: 33-43 inches
The short-eared owl is brown with buff and white underparts. Its yellow eyes are accentuated by black outlines, and the bird’s short ears are usually very difficult to see.
This bird hunts during the day and depends on its acute hearing to listen for small mammals. This species of owl’s diet includes rabbits, lemmings, voles, bats, and muskrats. You’ll find it either on the ground or flying close to it. During the breeding season, the short-eared owl can be seen all day long, but in the winter, it prefers low-light conditions.
To protect the eggs, the female short-eared owl defecates on the eggs to repel predators and mask the scent of the nest.
- Scientific Name: Aegolius funereus
- Length: 8.7-10.6 inches
- Weight: 3.3-7.6 ounces
- Wingspan: 20-24 inches
Our friend the boreal owl has a brown and white-spotted body and yellow eyes that are framed by grey feathers. It’s got asymmetrical ears, with one higher than the other to help the owl find exactly where sound is coming from as it hunts.
Boreal owls sit on a perch waiting for small mammals, rodents, and insects to come along; they’re harder to spot during the day, however. Most of the time, the boreal owl is silent, except between February and April when the species breeds. And you just might be able to coax a breeding pair into a nest box.
Northern Saw-Whet Owl
- Scientific Name: Aegolius acadicus
- Length: 6.7-8.7 inches
- Weight: 1.9-5.3 ounces
- Wingspan: 16.5-22.2 inches
Northern saw-whet owls are among the smallest owls in North America and have catlike faces, bright yellow eyes, and oversized heads. Their feathers are mottled brown with white spots on their heads.
During the day, this owl usually roosts in dense vegetation, but songbirds are quick to announce its presence by flying at it until it moves away. This owl is quite common but challenging to locate, which is why you need to pay attention to its loud and repetitive call.
Northern saw-whet owls mainly feed on small mammals and rodents.
- Scientific Name: Tyto alba
- Length: 13-15 inches
- Weight: 14.1-24.7 ounces
- Wingspan: 31-37 inches
The barn owl is a rather pale bird with deep black eyes and buff and grey feathers on its head and wings, but it appears almost white at night.
It likes to nest and roost in cavities, abandoned barns, and dense trees and mainly hunts at night, using its hearing to locate prey. Its diet includes voles, shrews, and rodents like wood mice.
Unlike other species of owls, the barn owl has a raspy call. You can often see it if you’re in the open country at night, and to attract a breeding pair to your backyard, you can set up a nest box.
Owls are intriguing birds that usually attract the attention of Connecticut’s birders. Listen carefully and keep your eyes open, and you just might be the next to see one of these attractive birds. And don’t forget to enjoy all the other beautiful animals you’ll see while trekking through Connecticut, too!