Owls In Maine: 11 Species To See In The Pine Tree State

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Are you looking for a reason to visit the Pine Tree State? Apart from the famous lobster and delightful lighthouses, the state of Maine has about 464 documented bird species living in its forest and grassland regions. 

Of these species, 292 of them occur statewide while others are rare or accidental. Scientists have recorded 11 owl species in Maine, making it an amazing spot for avid birdwatchers. Read our handy list of these owls, and we’ll tell you everything you need to know about them. 

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

  • Scientific Name: Strix varia
  • Length: 16-25 inches
  • Weight: 16.6-37 ounces
  • Wingspan: 38-49 inches

The barred owl has mottled brown and white feathers with brown underparts. Although the bird usually roosts quietly, you’ll occasionally hear the sound of its distinctive call while it’s still daylight. 

Barred owls are probably one of the most widespread species in Maine. They can be found in mature forests, usually competing with the threatened spotted owl. They build their nests in tree cavities. 

This species of owls feed on a variety of small animals like squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, voles, and small birds. Most of its hunting is done at night, although the owl may occasionally search for prey during the day. 

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

  • Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
  • Length: 17-25 inches
  • Weight: 32-88 ounces
  • Wingspan: 3-5 feet

The great horned owl has ear-like tufts of feathers that look like horns on top of its reddish face as well as mottled grey-brown feathers on its body, yellow eyes, and a distinctive white patch on its throat. 

The best time to see this fantastic owl is at dusk when it’s perching on fences. Listen for its deep call and look for it flying across roads. 

This strong raptor is known to go after prey that might be larger than the owl itself. It commonly preys on falcons and other owls. 

When the owl’s claws are clenched, it takes at least 28 pounds of force to open them. These claws come in handy when the great horned bird needs to sever the spine of its prey. 

Eastern Screech-Owl

Eastern Screech-Owl

  • Scientific Name: Megascops asio
  • Length: 6.3-9.8 inches
  • Weight: 4.3-8.6 ounces
  • Wingspan: 18-24 inches

Like most owls, the female eastern screech-owl is larger than her male counterpart. These owls have curious yellow eyes and reddish or grey feathers; the bird’s plumage usually boasts complex patterns for better camouflage when the owl hides among tree bark. 

Songbirds can help you locate this owl in Maine, as they usually scream and fly around when one of these owls is nearby. At night, however, the owl’s distinctive call will lead you right to it. 

Eastern screech-owls feed on small mammals, amphibians, and birds. They regurgitate their prey’s bones, feathers, and hair in oval pellets that tell you a lot about its diet and act as a food source for other creatures. 

Most of these birds form breeding pairs for life, although some males of this species can mate with two females. You can set up a nesting box to attract a breeding pair to your backyard. 

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl

  • Scientific Name: Bubo scandiacus
  • Length: 20-25 inches
  • Weight: 2.9-5.5 pounds
  • Wingspan: 46-65 inches

The snowy or arctic owl is one of the biggest and most intriguing owl species in the world. The bird has pure white plumage with black markings on its body and wings. 

The earliest depiction of this owl can be found in cave paintings in Europe, and the real thing can be spotted in Maine during the winter season, usually roaming about in open fields and shorelines. 

When it’s on the ground, some people mistake this owl for a snowball. Some snowy owls are territorial of their breeding areas. They feed on lemmings, rats, moles, squirrels, and other small animals, and unlike most owls, they’re diurnal. 

Northern Hawk Owl

Northern Hawk Owl

  • Scientific Name: Surnia ulula
  • Length: 14.2-16.7 inches
  • Weight: 11 ounces
  • Wingspan: 18 inches

Looking like an owl but behaving like certain species of hawks, the northern hawk-owl mainly hunts for its prey by day. It leans forward to locate its victims, then leaps and flies toward it with deep steady wingbeats. 

The bird has an oval brown body that’s covered with white spots and yellow eyes that enable the owl to locate prey up to half a mile away. 

This owl usually has weaker hearing than other species of owls. During the breeding season, these owls usually choose a nesting spot near water in open forests or near the forest edge. The northern hawk-owl also nests in cavities that were abandoned by woodpeckers. 

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

  • Scientific Name: Athene cunicularia
  • Length: 7.5-11 inches
  • Weight: 4.9-8.5 ounces
  • Wingspan: 20-24 inches

The burrowing owl is sandy-colored, and unlike other owls, both sexes of this species are almost the same size. The bird’s name refers to its preference to live in burrows dug underground. 

Finding the burrowing owl isn’t always an easy task because the bird is small compared to the open areas where it lives. Moreover, its plumage makes it perfectly camouflaged.

This species of owls hunt on the ground, looking for small mammals, amphibians, insects, songbirds, and even smaller burrowing owls. 

In the absence of burrows dug by prairie dogs or ground squirrels, the burrowing owl can be seen nesting in piles of PVC pipes. Before laying their eggs, burrowing owls cover the entrance of their nests with animal dung to attract dung beetles and other insects for them to catch and eat. 

Great Grey Owl

Great Grey Owl

  • Scientific Name: Strix nebulosa
  • Length: 24-33 inches
  • Weight: 2.2-2.84 pounds
  • Wingspan: 5 feet

The great grey owl has an interesting plumage with its silver suit and bowtie around its neck. The bird has a large face and shiny light yellow eyes. Despite the great grey owl’s size, it’s challenging to find due to its elusive nature; it prefers to perch quietly. 

Small mammals and rodents, like voles, rabbits, and lemmings, make up most of this owl’s diet. This owl is powerful and can break through the snow to find a hidden mammal or rodents. It needs to eat regularly, sometimes snagging up to seven voles a day!

You won’t find this bird building a nest, but instead using those abandoned by other raptors or the common raven. In some cases, the great grey owl lays its eggs on the broken tops of dead trees. 

Long-Eared Owl

Long-Eared Owl

  • Scientific Name: Asio otus
  • Length: 12-16 inches
  • Weight: 7.8-15.3 ounces
  • Wingspan: 34-40 inches

The long-eared owls’ rather odd appearance makes them even more interesting to avid birdwatchers. They have slender bodies with straight tufts of feathers on their heads that look like exclamation marks, and their black-buff plumage and dark faces make them difficult to detect in the dense forests where they like to roost.

Locating this bird is rather challenging, but you can listen for its long and low hoot at night. It can be heard from a distance of over half a mile!

The long-eared owl has a well-developed auditory system that allows it to locate and snatch its prey in complete darkness. It mostly feeds on voles, rabbits, and shrews, but in some instances, you’ll find this owl eating ground squirrels, bats, weasels, and even other birds. 

Like the eastern screech-owl, it swallows its prey whole, then regurgitates the hair, fur, and bones into pellets.

Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared Owl

  • Scientific Name: Asio flammeus
  • Length: 13-17 inches
  • Weight: 7.3-16.8 ounces
  • Wingspan: 33-43 inches

The short-eared owl is one of the most common owl species and can be seen during the day. It features brown spotted plumage and short, difficult-to-see ear tufts. The bird’s yellow eyes are surrounded by black circles. 

When this owl isn’t perched in low trees or grasslands, it spends its time on the ground, searching for small rodents and mammals. Occasionally, it will hunt for shorebirds and songbirds. 

Unfortunately, the number of short-eared owls has decreased, but you still may occasionally see one in Maine during the winter months. This is one of the few owls that builds its own nest, and in some cases, it might build on top of an old one. 

Boreal Owl

Boreal Owl

  • Scientific Name: Aegolius funereus
  • Length: 8.7-10.6 inches
  • Weight: 3.3-7.6 ounces
  • Wingspan: 20-24 inches

The boreal owl has a petite body and square head, and almost the size of the robin, the owl has brown plumage with white spots and yellow eyes. It also has tiny white dots on its crown.

These sit-and-wait owls hunt at night and are usually silent, except during the late winter to spring months. During the daytime, the boreal owl roosts quietly and changes its site almost daily. 

The ear openings are asymmetrical, allowing the owl to locate the prey accurately. It feeds on mammals, rodents, and birds. If you hope to attract a breeding pair to your backyard, consider setting out a nesting box. 

Northern Saw-Whet Owl

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

The northern saw-whet owl has a cat-like face and yellow eyes, and its small body is mottled brown with white spots that cover its wings. Younger birds usually sport darker colored feathers. 

This relatively small owl is nocturnal and hard to see, but the best time to look for it is between January and May when you hear its call. 

The northern saw-whet owl can be found in several wooded habitats, and it prefers to feed on deer mice and white-footed mice. During migration, it complements its diet with other animals, including shrews, voles, chipmunks, and birds. Males hunt for food, while females focus on incubating and brooding the young. 

Wrap Up

Maine has about 17,521,753 acres of forest land for you to observe the amazing birds that live there. Should you find yourself in the northeastern United States territory, spend a little extra time with your eyes on low perches and be sure to listen carefully; you just might encounter a majestic owl that’s trying to keep a low profile. 

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