There are 6 species of Owl in Indiana:
- Barn Owl
- Great Horned Owl
- Barred Owl
- Long-eared Owl
- Short-eared Owl
- Northern Saw-whet Owl
The largest Owls in Indiana are the Great Horned Owl and the smallest owls in Indiana are the Northern Saw-whet Owl.
Owls are birds of prey and hunt and eat small mammals as well as snakes, frogs, and insects. Owls eat their prey whole, often after removing the head, and then regurgitate the bones and fur.
To find owls in Indiana head out to woodland at dawn or dusk for the best chance of seeing them. Try looking at high perches on the edge of the forest overlooking open grassland or pastures.
1. Barn Owl
The Barn Owl can be seen all year in Indiana, however, they are not very common. This white-faced silent nocturnal bird is about the size of a crow.
- Length: 12.6-15.8 in (32-40 cm)
- Weight: 14.1-24.7 oz (400-700 g)
- Wingspan: 39.4-49.2 in (100-125 cm)
Barn Owls have white faces, chest, and belly, and underwings and are buff colored on the back. They have long rounded wings and short tails, with round faces. Females have spots on their chests which reduce parasites and the more spots the female has the more the male helps build the nest!
They hunt for small rodents at night over open ground such as fields and meadows and are so named as they often roost in quiet barns during the day. Barn owls swallow their prey whole and cough up pellets twice a day.
The Barn Owl predominantly finds prey by sound as they have the best hearing of any animal tested. This helps them to catch prey in complete darkness or those hidden under vegetation or show.
They nest in tree cavities, caves, and often in barns or other abandoned or quiet buildings. The nest is made of regurgitated pellets, arranged into a cup with their feet. They lay 2-18 white eggs over 1- 3 broods.
There are about 46 species of Barn Owl worldwide and they are found on six continents. They don’t hoot like other owls and instead make a raspy screech call.
2. Great Horned Owl
The Great Horned Owl can be found all year in Indiana and across all of North America. They are large owls with thick bodies and large ear-like tufts on their heads.
- Length: 18.1-24.8 in (46-63 cm)
- Weight: 32.1-88.2 oz (910-2500 g)
- Wingspan: 39.8-57.1 in (101-145 cm)
Great Horned Owls are gray-brown with a mottled pattern and a white patch at the throat. They have broad rounded wings and a deep hooting call. It is one of the most common owls in North America and lives in most habitats from forests to deserts, cities, or grasslands.
Birds and mammals, even bigger than themselves, are prey for these powerful hunters. They will also hunt other raptors such as Ospreys, Peregrine falcons, or other owls. Their varied diet includes small rodents such as mice or, skunks, geese and hares or insects, fish, and carrion. They are not fussy and will eat almost anything!
Great Horned Owls nest in trees and often use an old nest from another species. They line the nest with bark, leaves, downy feathers or pellets, but sometimes leave it unlined. They lay 1-4 white eggs.
3. Barred Owl
The Barred Owl can be found all year in Indiana. These large stocky birds are between the size of a crow and a goose.
- Length: 16.9-19.7 in (43-50 cm)
- Weight: 16.6-37.0 oz (470-1050 g)
- Wingspan: 39.0-43.3 in (99-110 cm)
Barred Owls are brown and white with a mottled pattern of vertical stripes on their belly and horizontal stripes on their backs and upper chest. They have black eyes, the classic round head, no ear tufts, and a rounded tail.
A loud barking hoo hoo call is made by the Barred Owl.
They hunt for small animals, including squirrels, rabbits, birds, and voles, by sitting and watching from an elevated perch. They live in large mature forests, often near water, and nest in tree cavities, laying 1-5 white eggs.
4. Long-eared Owl
The Long-eared Owl can be found in Indiana in the winter after breeding and migrating from more northern states and Canada. They are slender medium-sized owls, about the size of a crow and with a surprised expression.
- Length: 13.8-15.8 in (35-40 cm)
- Weight: 7.8-15.3 oz (220-435 g)
- Wingspan: 35.4-39.4 in (90-100 cm)
Long-eared Owls have patterned black and brown feathers with buff faces and large black or buff ear tufts and yellow eyes. They are nocturnal and roost in dense forests, where they are camouflaged, but close to grassland to hunt.
Small mammals such as voles, mice, young rats, and rabbits are the prey of Long-eared Owls. They hunt over open grassland or pastures by flying just a few feet off the ground looking or listening for movement. They use stick nests abandoned by other species, laying 2-10 white eggs.
Long-eared Owls are rarely heard except during breeding time. They make soft low hoots and whistles, whines, shrieks, and cat-like meows.
5. Short-eared Owl
The Short-eared Owl can be found in winter in Indiana after migrating from more northern states and Canada after breeding. They are medium-sized, about the same as a crow, and with very small ear tufts.
- Length: 13.4-16.9 in (34-43 cm)
- Weight: 7.3-16.8 oz (206-475 g)
- Wingspan: 33.5-40.5 in (85-103 cm)
Short-eared Owls have black, brown, and white mottled coloring with a pale face and black-rimmed yellow eyes. They have broad wings with a rounded end and a short tail.
Unlike most owls, the Short-eared Owl hunts during the day, mostly at dawn and dusk. They fly low over the ground looking and listening for movement from their prey of small mammals such as voles and mice.
Short-eared Owls are also unusual in that they build their own nest by scraping the ground into a bowl and lining it with grass and soft feathers. They lay 1-11 cream or white eggs.
These owls are not very vocal but during courtship, the males will make about a dozen hoots and they may bark, whine or scream when defending the nest.
6. Northern saw-whet Ow
The Northern Saw-whet Owl is in Indiana in winter. This tiny owl is only about the size of a robin.
- Length: 7.1-8.3 in (18-21 cm)
- Weight: 2.3-5.3 oz (65-151 g)
- Wingspan: 16.5-18.9 in (42-48 cm)
Northern-Saw-whet Owls have small bodies with large round heads. They are mottled brown with a white face, spotted head, and yellow eyes.
They are nocturnal and live in dense forests hunting small mammals, especially mice. They nest in tree cavities that have been left from other species, such as Pileated Woodpeckers. They do not add any other nesting material and instead lay their eggs directly on the debris. They lay 4-7 white eggs.