Owls In Rhode Island: 10 Majestic Species To Look For

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Rhode Island is mostly known for its spectacular coastline and its many tourist attractions. It’s less known for its population of winged inhabitants, which is odd considering 431 bird species have been confirmed in Rhode Island, many of which are owls. 

Owls are a big part of Rhode Island, from common ones like the Great-Horned to rare ones like the Boreal.

If you want to learn more about spotting and identifying owls in Rhode Island, you ought to stick around, as we’re about to shed light on 10 owl species found in the Ocean State.

Barn Owls

Barn Owls

  •     Scientific name: Tyto alba
  •     Length: 12.5 – 15.7 in
  •     Weight: 430 – 620 g
  •     Wingspan: 36 – 48 in

These owls can be found all across the United States and South America. They’re particularly fond of open fields, grasslands, and farms. They don’t strictly stay in open areas, though; you can find these birds in the desert, marshes, and even in the suburbs.

In Rhode Island, Barn owls are particularly common on Block Island.

You can easily identify a Barn owl by its most distinctive mark: its bright white underbody. These owls have short, square tales, unlike the round tails of other owl species. To spot one, opt for an area near croplands or other similarly open habitats.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

  •     Scientific name: Strix varia
  •     Length: 38 – 49 in
  •     Weight: 720 g
  •     Wingspan: 38 – 45 in

The Barred owl is the only owl in the eastern United States that has brown eyes. All other owls have yellow eyes. This is the one distinctive trait that sets it apart from the rest.

This curious and inquisitive creature is easily found in Western Canada, the Pacific Northwest, and all of the eastern United States. It prefers to reside in old forests with swampy grounds. However, Barred owls aren’t confined to forests. They also enjoy dwelling in suburban neighborhoods.

To attract a Barred owl, make sure to pick a location with mature, tall trees that’s close to a water source. Make sure to provide a steady source of food. They enjoy eating small rodents, frogs, fish, and anything made of meat.

Boreal Owl

Boreal Owl

  •     Scientific name: Aegolius funereus
  •     Length: 9 – 10 in
  •     Weight: 120 g
  •     Wingspan: 20 – 24 in

This owl can be found in places in North America such as Alaska and Canada. Sometimes, you can find this owl in mountain ranges further south, such as the Rocky Mountains in northern Minnesota. They are extremely rare in Rhode Island. The Boreal owls prefer to reside and breed in coniferous forests.

Due to its extremely introverted nature, this owl is rarely spotted by humans. A good time to look for a boreal owl is from mid-February to April during especially harsh winters. This small owl enjoys maintaining a diet of voles, birds, and many insects.

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl

  •     ​Scientific name: Bubo scandiacus
  •     Length: 24.8 – 28.7 in
  •     Weight: 1600 – 2950 g
  •     Wingspan: 49 – 51 in

These beautiful owls are native to the Arctic regions of both North America and the Palearctic. They migrate with the seasons: in the summer, they breed in northern Canada; while in the winter, they fly south.

Their diet changes with their location. During the summertime, Snowy owls usually feed on lemmings and ptarmigans. However, during winter, their diet changes. It includes more meat, such as seabirds, squirrels, and rodents.

These birds are known for their distinctive appearance. For starters, they’re quite large and heavy. It’s one of the largest species of owl. It’s also one of the only species with white plumage.

Long-Eared Owl

Long-Eared Owl

  •     Scientific name: Asio otus
  •     Length: 13 -16 in
  •     Weight: 250 g
  •     Wingspan: 36 – 42 in

These owls have a range that stretches from below Hudson’s Bay to the top of Mexico. They enjoy residing out on the fringes of mixed forests, which provide open areas for hunting and woodlands for nesting.

These owls are quite social creatures. They can share roosts and sometimes live in clusters. You’ll find that they prefer to roost in very dense foliage. However, they have an impressive ability to camouflage, which makes them extremely hard to spot.

These feline-like owls enjoy a diet of mice and voles, as well as rats and other rodents. They enjoy the occasional small bird or snake.

Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared Owl

  •     Scientific name: Asio flammeus
  •     Length: 13 – 17 in
  •     Weight: 206 – 475 g
  •     Wingspan: 33 – 43 in

In the winter, you can find these owls across most of North America and Mexico. In the warmer months, the short-eared owl heads back north to breed.

These types of owls prefer to stay in open country and grasslands. Your best chance to see one is at dusk or dawn around meadows, open fields, prairies, or even airports.

The Short-eared owl prefers to build its nest on the ground. If it wants to lure a threat away from its nest, it hops away and pretends to be crippled. It even poops on its eggs to stave off potential predators.

Short-eared owls typically hunt in the daytime when voles are active. They also enjoy eating other rodents and seabirds.

Great-Horned Owl

Great-Horned Owl

  •     Scientific name: Bubo virginianus
  •     Length: 17- 25 in
  •     Weight: 1134 – 1814 g
  •     Wingspan: 36 – 60 in

This fierce-eyed owl can be easily identified by looking at its “ears”. These are long tufts of feathers that almost resemble horns on their head.

You can find this owl almost anywhere in North America. However, since they’re talented at camouflage, it can be somewhat difficult to tell them apart from the trees.

These owls can make homes in desert fringes, rainforests, tundra, and prairies. They have a great ability to adapt to a variety of habitats, more so than any other owl.

Great-horned owls like to eat rabbits, geese, and groundhogs, in addition to fellow raptors. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t enjoy smaller prey; they have no problem devouring insects and rodents.

Eastern-Screech Owl

Eastern-Screech Owl

  •     Scientific name: Megascops asio
  •     Length: 6.3 – 9.8 in
  •     Weight: 120 – 244 g
  •     Wingspan: 18 – 24 in

This small owl has a range that stretches from Mexico to Canada. It prefers wooded areas that aren’t populated by larger owls. However, Eastern Screech-owls don’t avoid humans; in fact, you can find them nesting on top of streetlamps, next to busy highways, or even in busy buildings.

These owls derive their name from their popular hoot. They have a distinctive even-pitched trill called a tremolo. Many people confuse it with the call of mating toads.

The Eastern-Screech owl enjoys a diet that includes frogs, lizards, and tadpoles. It also likes earthworms and other insects.

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl

  •     Scientific name: Aegolius acadicus
  •     Length: 6.5 – 9 in
  •     Weight: 54 – 151 g
  •     Wingspan: 16.5 – 22.2 in

The Northern Saw-whet Owl is one of the smallest owl species to be found on the planet. It’s native to North America and can be found in dense thickets, conifers, and mixed hardwood forests.

This species of owls derives its name from the sound they make when threatened, which resembles the whetting of a saw.

They particularly like staying in abandoned woodpecker holes in deciduous trees. They prefer more mature trees but won’t say no to artificial nesting boxes.

Northern Saw-whet owls like eating deer mice and voles. Sometimes, however, they’ll switch things up and eat small birds and insects when necessary.

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl

  •     Scientific name: Athene cunicularia
  •     Length: 7 – 10 inches
  •     Weight: 150 g
  •     Wingspan: 20 – 24 inches

This small, leggy owl can be found throughout both North and South America. It prefers to reside in open, dry habitats. Since it nests in underground burrows, it favors areas with low vegetation: grasslands, rangelands, deserts, prairies, and airfields.

Due to their tawny coloration, these owls are adept at camouflage. However, their stark yellow eyes are apt to give them away. Unlike many other owls on this list, burrowing owls don’t have ear tufts.

These owls maintain a diet that includes insects, small mammals, and other birds. Their diet mainly depends on the season.

Conclusion

If you’re a birdwatcher who is fond of owls, these 10 majestic birds definitely make Rhode Island a state worth visiting. You’ll find them in pretty much any part of the state. Due to their excellent camouflage capabilities, some species will be harder to spot than others, but it will be worth it. And who knows? Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky few to spot a Boreal. Wouldn’t that be something to tell your friends about?

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