Georgia has plenty to offer owls, which is why the state is home to seven out of the 19 species found in the United States. The Peach State has a total of 50 state parks and 12 national ones, plus it has a significant coastline, plenty of mountain ranges, and the largest swamp found in North America.
That’s why 350 species of birds have been identified there, and a wide variety of birds of prey find it to be the perfect habitat to live and breed in or migrate to. Now, it’s time to meet the seven owls in Georgia!
- Scientific Name: Megascops asio
- Length: 6.3-9.8 inches
- Weight: 4.2-8.6 ounces
- Wingspan: 18-24 inches
Eastern screech-owls are the most common species found in Georgia. Despite being common, they’re known for their impressive and effective camouflage skills, so it’s challenging to spot one of them. But they are year-round residents of Georgia, and that increases your chances of spotting one or two of them.
These owls have red and brown feathers that easily blend in with the trees when they’re trying to hide, and they’re relatively small, which is why they mostly live in tree cavities made by woodpeckers. They also prefer to stay near water sources.
You may also find these screech-owls in suburban and rural areas. If you can’t see one, strain your ears and listen carefully for its screech; it’s loud and sounds a bit like a horse whining.
Eastern screech-owls are nocturnal, so you’ll only see them at night when they’re out hunting. They’re found in abundance around March and April because that’s breeding season for Georgia screech-owls.
- Scientific Name: Tyto furcata
- Length: 13-15 inches
- Weight: 1-1.3 pounds
- Wingspan: 42-43.3 inches
Barn owls are found in abundance across the United States, and they spend the whole year in Georgia. They probably look familiar to you, and that’s because they’re mostly used as the inspiration for owls in cartoons and children’s books.
These owls’ faces are pale white, and their black eyes are surrounded by orange-hued feathers. Their bodies are a tan color, and they have grey spots on their wings, necks, and heads. The barn owl’s light color makes it easy to catch this bird as it’s in flight; you’ll see a ball of white plumage zip through the air, and you’ll know it’s this bird of prey right away.
Your best chance at catching a glimpse of this species of owls is during the day. Look for them among their hiding places: abandoned barns and other manmade structures and other quiet places.
Unlike most owl species, barn owls don’t hoot. Instead, they let out loud screeches that will alarm any creature around. Additionally, these owls have an impressive sense of hearing of which they take advantage of when hunting small prey.
Northern Saw-Whet Owl
- Scientific Name: Aegolius acadicus
- Length: 7-8.3 inches
- Weight: 2.3-5.5 ounces
- Wingspan: 16.5-19 inches
Your chances of seeing a northern saw-whet owl in Georgia is a bit slim for two reasons: 1) they’re tiny — one of the smallest species in the world, actually — so they’re pretty hard to spot, and 2) their population in the state is pretty low, and only the non-breeding owls stay there…not to mention these owls are elusive and great at hiding!
A lot of people are convinced northern saw-whets got their name from the sound they make; it’s said to be similar to a saw cutting on a whetstone.
Northern saw-whets and songbirds aren’t exactly the best of friends. Saw-whet owls eat them, and if they’re not hungry, they’ll likely bully the smaller birds just for fun. So, if you see a bunch of small-in-size birds creating a ruckus, chances are there’s a northern saw-whet around.
- Scientific Name: Strix varia
- Length: 16-25 inches
- Weight: 1-2.75 pounds
- Wingspan: 38-49 inches
Next up on our list are barred owls, who have mottled brown and white feathers. Their pattern is unique, which makes them easy to identify and is advantageous when they need to camouflage against the trees.
The medium-sized owl is known to build its nest in tree cavities, especially those that are in dead trees. They spend the whole year in Georgia, mostly in deciduous and evergreen forests and woodlands. They’re used to staying in one place without migrating far.
If you want to attract a breeding pair of barred owls, install one or two nest boxes in the forest. Their mating season spans from March to August, so that period is your best bet of catching them.
Barred owls are nocturnal predators, so they only hunt at night. Birdwatchers mostly identify them by their distinct calls that famously sound like they’re asking, “Who cooks for you?” If you or a fellow birdwatching friend can imitate the sound, you’ll attract the owls easily.
As far as their feeding habits are concerned, the barred owl feeds on anything made of meat. It loves rodents, mice, and the like.
Great Horned Owl
- Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
- Length: 17-25 inches
- Weight: 2.5-4 pounds
- Wingspan: 36-60 inches
The great horned owl is the most common species of owl found in North America, and it may be the most distinctive-looking owl, too. You’ll have no difficulty trying to identify it, thanks to the odd-shaped tufts of feathers near its ears that give it a horned appearance.
Great horned owls also have vibrant yellow eyes that contrast vividly against their feathers’ dark canvas. Their faces look like a work of art, mostly orange with brown and white spots here and there.
One more thing you can use to identify these types of owls is their deep hoot. It’s usually pretty short, but it’s unique.
These owls spend the whole year in Georgia, occupying evergreen forests, swamps, and open areas. They fly silently, thanks to their fluffy feathers, so it’s hard to catch them during flight. This is an advantage when they’re out hunting for small prey.
We’re lucky that great horned owls are bold and like to be seen. They’re also not nocturnal, so you can easily see them during the day. And one last thing: these owls love perching on buildings and surveying areas before spending time hunting, so while you’re out birding, make sure you look up!
- Scientific Name: Asio otus
- Length: 13.8-15.8 inches
- Weight: 7.8-15.5 ounces
- Wingspan: 35.5-39.5 inches
Long-eared owls are somewhat rare in Georgia, but you may get lucky and see one! Scarce numbers of their non-breeding population stay in the state all year long.
You can catch them in the majority of the state, except in the southeastern areas, where they aren’t found at all. What makes things even harder as you search for them is the fact that long-eared owls are excellent camouflagers. They have a secretive nature, and unlike great horned owls, they don’t like being seen.
During the day, your best chance at spotting them is in dense forests. However, they mostly lay low before the night comes, so you may miss them. At night, they go to open areas to hunt, and that’s when you’re likely to see them.
Long-eared owls have super-sensitive hearing, which helps them catch their prey in the dusky dark. They also have deep hoots that sound a bit like those of the great horned owl, but they’re much longer calls. That said, these sounds are mostly heard only in spring and summer.
- Scientific Name: Asio flammeus
- Length: 13-17 inches
- Weight: 7.3-16.8 ounces
- Wingspan: 33.5-40.5 inches
Short-eared owls are spread widely across the United States, and they’re present in almost every state. As for the Peach State specifically, the non-breeding populations make it their home, which means there aren’t too many owls in Georgia.
Short-eared owls got their name from the short ear tufts on top of their heads. If you don’t look closely enough, you’ll miss them, so keep your eyes peeled for their vibrant yellow eyes and rounded faces that are light brown with white spots.
These owls fly in smooth, graceful beats, making it seem like flight requires no effort from them. That’s all thanks to their wide, rounded wings that don’t make a sound as they flap.
Sometimes, when they’re hunting, these owls fly too close to the ground. Plus, they may suddenly change direction if they detect their prey moving somewhere else.
The best thing about short-eared owls, though, is their tricky nature. They’re used to fooling their prey and predators into thinking they’re dead. They usually do this when a predator catches them, acting dead until the predator loosens its grip then flying away quickly.
Not only that, but short-eared owls also act like they’re crippled when their nests are threatened. They may even poop on their eggs if a predator is near so it gets repulsed by the smell and leaves.
Owls are a favorite of many avid birdwatchers, and though they sometimes have a dark vibe surrounding them, they have pretty faces, which is why some people travel all around the country looking for them.
If in Georgia, it’s likely you’ll catch sight of one or two species. If you’re lucky, you’ll see these beautiful and exciting birds while they’re hunting, which is only a sight to see if you’re not faint of heart.
If you don’t want to miss out on other bird species in Georgia, check out our article with a list of Peach State woodpeckers here!