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Oregon Wildlife Species

Birds: Owls

Bird Species of Oregon: In addition to native bird species, introduced species, accidentals and birds that are currently expanding their ranges have been included here. Only one photo is shown for each species—as plumages vary between males and females, between young and adults, between seasons, see All About Birds for precise bird identification.

Order strigiformes
Owls - Family Tytonidae

ODFW Owl images on Flickr | Living with Owls

Barn Owl and Chicks
Barn Owl female and chicks
-Oregon Fish and Wildlife-

Barn Owl Tyto alba

One of the most startling sounds in the black of night is the loud, harsh call of the Barn Owl as it flies over field or marsh in search of small rodents.

They are white to tan beneath with fine spotting ranging from almost none to fairly extensive. The face has a well-defined facial disc that acts as a parabolic dish collecting the faint sounds of its prey, allowing it to hunt successfully in total darkness. Male and female Barn Owls are similar in appearance though the female is somewhat larger.

The Barn owl is a fairly common permanent resident in open country west of the Cascades. East of the Cascades it is more local in its distribution being most common in agricultural areas.

Hear the call of the Barn Owl

Owls - Family Tytonidae
Flammulated Owl
Flammulated Owl adult
-Photo by Kathy Munsel, ODFW-

Flammulated Owl Otus flammeolus

This diminutive owl is one of the smallest in North America, with a body mass of about 1.9 oz. This owl has dark eyes, brown plumage with darker and reddish variegations, and small ear tufts. The Flammulated Owl is unique among owls in the Pacific Northwest in that it preys almost exclusively on insects and is a neotropical migrant. Additionally, the pitch of its rather ventriloquial hoot is among the lowest of all North American Owls.

The Flammulated owl breeds on the eastern slope of the Cascades, in the Blue and Wallowa mountains, and in small numbers in the mountains of southwest Oregon.

Hear the call of the Flammulated Owl

Western Screech-Owl
Western Screech-Owl adult
- Wikipedia-

Western Screech-Owl Megascops kennicottii

Almost strictly nocturnal, the Western Screech-Owl hunts discreetly at night and roosts during the day in dense woodlands, its perfectly streaked plumage allows it to pass as tree bark. These habits make it difficult to see, and it is more common than many are aware.

It is a small owl with yellow eyes and feathered ear tufts. It exhibits geographic variation in plumage color and pattern: both gray morphs and brown morphs occur in the Pacific Northwest. Sexes are alike.

The Western Screech-Owl is a fairly common year-round resident in lower-elevation woodland through the state of Oregon. It is usually found below 3,000 ft. in western Oregon, but has occurred at least to 4,100 ft. in the west Cascades

Hear the call of the Western Screech-Owl

Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl adult
-Photo by Kathy Munsel, ODFW-

Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus

The Great Horned Owl is the most commonly encountered owl in Oregon. It is a large, stocky, powerful owl with large yellow eyes and distinctive feather tufts or "ears" above the eyes. Plumage color varies from dark brown in western Oregon to pale grayish brown in southeastern Oregon. The throat is white.

It is a fairly common permanent resident throughout the state, but generally absent in areas above the timberline.

Hear the call of the Great Horned Owl

Snowy Owl
Snowy Owl
-by Charlotte Ganskopp-

Snowy Owl Bubo scandiaca

The Snowy Owl is the largest North American owl. Its white plumage makes it uniquely adapted for life in the arctic and sub-arctic. Adult males are nearly pure white, females have black spots and some barring. Young birds can be strongly barred.

Every few years, for reasons which are still not fully understood, Snowy Owls move south of their normal winter range into Oregon. During these irruptive events, they can be found on coastal dunes, open high desert, agricultural areas, airport margins, and occasionally atop buildings in populated areas.

Hear the call of the Snowy Owl

Northern Pygmy Ow
Northern Pygmy Owl adult
-Photo by Greg Gillson-

Northern Pygmy Owl Glaucidium gnoma

This tiny owl has a reputation as an aggressive predator on everything from mice and voles to birds and mammals over twice its size.

Coloration is highly variable with brown and gray morphs. In Oregon, color varies from dark brown in coastal mountains to gray in eastern Oregon, with an intermediate pale grayish-brown form in the Cascade mountains. About the length of a White-Crowned Sparrow, it has striking yellow eyes, dark vertical streaks on the breast and abdomen, and dark "eyespots" on the back of the head.

It is primarily diurnal and can often be approached quite closely when it is hunting or responding to an apparent territorial challenge.

The Northern Pygmy-Owl is fairly common throughput forested areas of Oregon, including the Coast Range, Klamath Mountains, Cascade Mountains, and Blue Mountains.

Hear the call of the Northern Pygmy Owl

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl adult

Burrowing Owl Athene cunicularia

This small owl is unusual in that it nests in earthen burrows in open shrub-step regions and grasslands. This habit is even more curious in Oregon since most burrows used for nesting were previously excavated by badgers, a major predator of Burrowing Owl eggs and young.

These long-legged, short tailed owls are generally brownish buff with spots across the back and barring across the front. Males are usually lighter-colored than females, possibly because they spend more time exposed to the elements. Males also average 5% larger than females, a situation rare among owls.

The Burrowing Owl is a spring and summer visitant in open grassland and shrub-steppe habitats in all ecoregions of eastern Oregon, except higher mountains. It is probably most common in the Columbia Basin and in southeast Oregon.

Hear the call of the Burrowing Owl

Spotted Owl
Spotted Owl adult
-Photo by Greg Gillson-

Spotted Owl Strix occidentalis

Because of its association with old forests, this inconspicuous, dark brown owl has become one of the most controversial birds in the Pacific Northwest.

The dark eyes and creamy white mottling on the breast and abdomen are distinctive, as is the lack of fear of humans. Both adults and young will typically allow humans to approach within a few feet, and it is not unusual for curious juveniles to follow hikers through the woods.

The Spotted Owl is a permanent resident in forested regions of western Oregon, from the coastal mountains to the eastern foothills of the Cascade Range.

Hear the call of the Spotted Owl | Species Fact Sheet

Barred Owl
Barred Owl adult
-Photo by Jerry Ronne-

Barred Owl Strix varia

The Barred Owl was first reported in Oregon in the early 1970s and it has since spread to forested areas throughout most of the state; in some areas it has become fairly common.

It is sometimes confused with the closely related spotted Owl, a large, grayish-brown owl, slightly larger than the Spotted Owl, with dark eyes and no ear tufts. It is easily distinguished from the Spotted Owl by the pronounced horizontal barring across the throat and upper breast, vertical brown streaks on the lower breast and abdomen.

The Barred Owl is now a permanent resident in forests of the Cascades, Coast Range, Blue, Wallowa, Strawberry and Klamath mountains and recently reached western Curry County as well.

Hear the call of the Barred Owl

Great Gray Owl
Great Gray Owl
-Oregon Fish and Wildlife-

Great Gray Owl Strix nebulosa

In length, the Great Gray Owl is Oregon's largest owl, though is weighs less than the Great Horned and Snowy Owls.

It is sooty gray to brownish above and lacks ear tufts. The prominent facial disc, outlined in black, contains a series of fine concentric rings that surround piercing yellow eyes. Despite its large size, both feet and bill are small. Sexes are similar.

It is an uncommon to rare inhabitant of forests adjacent to openings above 3,000 feet in the Cascade, Blue, and Wallowa mountains. Most observations in the Cascades are from east of the crest, though they have been discovered breeding west of the crest in the Willamette National Forest.

Hear the call of the Great Gray Owl

Long-eared Owl
Long-eared Owl adult
- Wikipedia-

Long-eared Owl Asio otus

This medium-sized owl is easily recognized by its conspicuous "ear" tufts, yellow eyes set in a round facial disk, size, and mottled plumage of black, brown, gray, buff, and white. Legs and toes are densely feathered. Females are larger and darker in coloration than males. It is strictly nocturnal and secretive during nesting.

The Long-eared Owl is a fairly common breeder in open country east of the Cascades in wooded riparian areas and junipers. It is a common breeder on Boardman Bombing Range, Morrow County and widespread in Malheur County. It is a rare breeder in the foothills of the Willamette Valley, where fewer than five nesting records have been reported.

Hear the call of the Long-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl adult

Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus

The Short-eared Owl is one of our most conspicuous owls owing to its use of open country and crepuscular habits. Often seen hunting low over the ground across marshes, fields, and other open areas on its buoyant, long wings, flying slowly and irregularly like a giant moth. This owl also differs from most other owls as it seldom vocalizes and is more often seen than heard.

It was named for its inconspicuous "ear" tufts arising from the center of the forehead, though field observers rarely see these tufts. Distinguishing characteristics include a pale buff facial disk and a broad tawny patch at the base of the primaries that causes a conspicuous flash in flight above. Black wrist marks are visible below, as are course dark brown streaks on the chest with the rest of the underparts finely streaked dark brown on a buff background.

It is locally common to rare in open country through the state. Considerable variation in its distribution from year to year is likely due to fluctuations in it's prey base. East of the Cascades it is locally common in the breeding season, particularly in the large wetland complexes.

Hear the call of the Short-eared Owl

Boreal Owl

Boreal Owl
-Nigel Seidel, ODFW-

Boreal Owl Aegolius funereus

This small, brown, earless owl with a black framed, square face was long thought to be restricted to the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska but during the 1980s it was found breeding in the Rocky Mountains of Idaho and Colorado. Subsequently it was found but not confirmed breeding in Oregon. It is strictly nocturnal and lives in areas often covered by deep snows and with few passable roads.

It is presumed to be a permanent resident. It has been regularly observed about the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness in northeast umatilla and northwest Wallowa counties and on the south slopes of South Sister Mountain in Deschutes County. Surveys have also found them in the Willamette, Deschutes, and Umatilla National Forests.

Hear the call of the Boreal Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl adult

Northern Saw-whet Owl Aegolius acadicus

The Northern Saw-whet Owl is on of the most common forest owls in Oregon, but like most other owls it is more often heard than seen.

It is a small owl, approximately 8 inches long, with a large head, large yellow eyes, and no ear tufts. The facial disk is reddish brown with small white streaks radiating outward from the eyes and a prominent white V above the eyes and beak. The back and wings are brown with white spots. The breast is white with rust-colored vertical streaking.

This owl breeds in low to mid-elevation coniferous and mixed deciduous/coniferous forests statewide. It is found at higher elevations to the tree line in lower numbers. In the Coast Range, this is the most common forest owl detected during nocturnal surveys.

Hear the call of the Saw-whet Owl

Glossary of terms | Sources: Atlas of Oregon Wildlife | The Oregon Bird Records Committee | Birds of Oregon

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