Birders interested in the types of owls in Wisconsin will love this feature! We’ve highlighted some of the common species and their details.

Most bird watchers are fascinated by the sight of an owl, rare or otherwise. And, it’s little wonder as these creatures are indeed a sight to behold. So, if you happen to be an owl lover and are visiting the State of Wisconsin, then you are in luck. You see, there are eleven different types of owls in Wisconsin. 

Most of these nocturnal birds have little need to go elsewhere as they find that the State’s climate and prey are perfect. Furthermore, Wisconsin gets a fair share of some rare species of Owls that migrate south from Canada.

The common Wisconsin owl species include the Barn Owls, Barred Owls, Eastern-screech Owls, Great Horned Owls, and Long-Eared Owls. So, without further delay, let’s get into the details of Wisconsin Owls identification.

The Five Most Common Owls Of Wisconsin

As mentioned earlier, the most common owls of Wisconsin find little need to move further from home as they get plenty of food and find the right environment right here in the State of Wisconsin. Yet, for the ease of the readers, let’s look at some of the unique attributes of each of the owl species.

Barn Owl – Tyto Alba

 wisconsin owls identification

The Barn Owl build their nests in tree cavities, cliff ledges and crevices, caves, and even human buildings like barn lofts or church steeples. The natural habitat for Barn owls includes grasslands, woodlots, strips of forests, ranchlands, marshes, and even suburbs.

The diet of Barn owls includes small mammals such as squirrels, rats, lemmings, bats, and rabbits. They even occasionally eat birds such as starlings, blackbirds too. As owls hunt at night, most times, squirrels and chipmunks are safe from owls.

The most exciting aspect of Barn owls is the courtship period. You see, Barn owls court the female with several displays of flight. The ‘moth flight’ is where the male owl hovers in front of the female for a few seconds with its feet dangling.

Barred Owl – Strix Varia

These intelligent creatures live year-round in a mixed forest of large trees, preferably close to water. The old woodlands support a vast diversity of prey as well as offer multiple choices for nesting cavities. Unlike the Barn owl, Barred owls are happy to munch on almost anything they can find, including small mammals, reptiles such as snakes, amphibians such as frogs, and even eat fish. 

The most peculiar nesting element for Barred owls is that they may prospect a nest site a year before using it. And, it is yet to be discovered whether the male or female choose the nest. 

The Barred owl is territorial year-round, and its aggressive behavior gets much worse during nesting season. You see, other large birds such as hawks or even other owls attack the Barred owl’s nest, sometimes eating the eggs and other times eating the adult too.

Eastern-Screech Owl – Megascops Asio

 wisconsin owl species

Here we bring you the survivor from the differing types of owls in Wisconsin, bring on rain or shine, bring on amphibians or reptiles or larger predators; nothing beats the Eastern screech owl. The Eastern screech owl is what you would call adaptable. It’s an owl, so yes, it does hunt at night. But, need can induce the Eastern screech owl to hunt at dusk or dawn or even during the daytime. Similarly, the Eastern screech owl can eat what it can find when it can see it.

Hence, the Eastern screech owl will occasionally even eat another Eastern screech owl. And, these owls don’t dig up their nest cavities, so they tend to occupy nests opened or enlarged by woodpeckers, fungus, or even squirrels.

And, if that wasn’t enough to distinguish the Eastern screech owl from the rest of the riff-raff, then these fighter owls like a bit of variety in their social life too. In most cases, Eastern screech owls keep to one mate. But, they can have more than one mate as well.

Great Horned Owl – Bubo Virginianus

The most common owl to be found in the State of Wisconsin is the Great Horned Owl. These birds gravitate towards secondary woodland, orchards, swamps, and agricultural areas. But, they can also be found in wooded parks, suburban areas as well as cities. 

The nickname for the Great Horned owl is the ‘flying mousetrap’ or the ‘winged tiger.’ These owls are approximately 24 inches tall with a wingspan of 44 inches. You see, most owls are known for being silent predators, and these birds are equipped with unique features that silence their flight. But the Great Horned Owl never fails to catch its prey and flies quite so silently that even the most alert prey falls victim to these birds.

The Great Horned owl is known to hunt small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. And, yes, most Great Horned owls keep to one mate all of their lives. But, you will come across a rebel who will mate with more than one female. Yet, if you feel the urge to find out more about this particular nighttime creature, then you can google “Great Horned Owl Wisconsin.”

Long-Eared Owl – Asio Otus

The Long-eared owls roost in dense vegetation and forage in open grasslands and shrublands. When you look at the Wisconsin owl species, you’ll discover that the Long-eared owl is also known as the ‘cat owl.’

These creatures love their privacy, are pretty secretive, nocturnal, and very well camouflaged. Hence, these birds are difficult to spot. However, in the spring and summer, if you listen intently, then you might hear the low, long hoot of the Long-eared owl. Furthermore, during winter, these owls roost in large numbers making it reasonably easy to find them. 

Long-eared owls hunt on the wing, coursing back and forth low above the open ground. They can hover over their prey or hunt from perches in high winds. They kill their prey with a bite to the back of their prey’s skull and then swallow their prey whole. 


There’s no denying that if you are on the lookout for sighting owls, you’ll not be disappointed with the types of owls in Wisconsin. There are many to be found that migrate to Wisconsin from the north in winters. And, yes, these nighttime creatures are truly fascinating to watch and observe.

Learn more about When Do Orioles Come To Wisconsin And When They Leave

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