Owls In Rhode Island: Different Majestic Owl Species That Can Be Found

Visiting Rhode Island will offer you a unique opportunity of visiting a wide range of owl species from the tiny saw-whet to the majestic snowy owl. Some of the species can be a bit elusive for sure, but if you put in the effort, they can be found.

So, as a bird spotter, if you want to create some memorable experiences and may want to take some excellent photos, you must pay Rhode Island a visit.

To make your owl-spotting task easier, we’ll narrate everything we know about the owls in Rhode Island here.

Different Own Species Found in Rhode Island

Surprisingly there are quite a few species that are found in Rhode Island. So, if you want to learn more about them and distinguish each from the other, keep on reading!

1. Barn Owl

These are resident birds of Rhode Island and can be found all year round in the area. As their name implies, they are frequently found in barns and other man-made constructions with plenty of roofs and rafters, such as attics and church steeples.

They are characterized by a white spherical face and belly and a square tail. Along with their superior hearing, they can be detected flying over fields in pursuit of prey from nightfall till dawn.

If you happen to come across one in dim lighting, it’s easy to become frightened by its ghostly complexion, which may be rather eerie! So be warned!

Scientific NameTyto alba
Length11–17 in (29–44 cm)
Weight14.1 – 24.7 oz (430 – 620 g)
Wingspan39.4–49.2 in (100 –125 cm)
Commonly Found inThey are found in structures with high ceilings, including barns and attics. However, they can also be frequently spotted in open areas such as fields, grassland, agricultural lands, and strips of forests.

2. Northern Saw-whet Owl

These birds are undoubtedly the smallest species of owls in existence. Their name derives from the cries they make when they are alarmed, which sound like a saw being sharpened with a whetstone.

They are difficult to spot among the trees due to their small, spherical bodies, tiny heads, and huge golden eyes. However, because there aren’t many mature trees in the area, their population is dwindling.

One of the fascinating things to know about this species is that the father owls look after the young owls. This is due to the females’ notorious propensity for reproducing indiscriminately throughout the years and seeking a new mate soon after laying eggs.

Scientific NameAegolius acadicus
Length6.5–9 in (17–23 cm)
Weight1.9–5.3 oz. (54–151 g)
Wingspan16.5–22.2 inches (42–56.3 cm)
Commonly Found InThese Owls specifically like mature trees in dense mixed hardwood forests or coniferous trees, preferably with a water body nearby.

3. Snowy Owl

These Majestic Owls are one of the most beautiful among the owl species. All white in appearance with striking black stripes on the back and are quite large in size. They favor colder, snowier climates and frequently reside in Arctic regions, thus the name.

Interestingly, the male Snowy Owl calls out to possible mates by hooting, which may be heard up to 7 miles away. Additionally, these owls are diurnal creatures since, in contrast to other owl species, they are active during the day.

Scientific NameBubo scandiacus
Length20.7–25.2 in (52.5–64 cm)
Weight3.2–4 lb. (1,465–1,800 g)
Wingspan48–60 inches (1.2–1.5 meters)
Commonly Found InThe Snowy Owls can easily be found on snowy beaches, and open fields. In fact, it’s easier to spot them along the shoreline in cold places.

4. Short-eared Owl

These brown-mottled, medium-sized owls are quite an interesting bunch due to their unique characteristics. They are typically most visible at dawn and dusk when they are out hunting for voles and other small rodents, which are their preferred prey.

Short-eared Owls usually nest in open grounds, and due to their sizes, they are often preyed on by larger birds and animals. The owls defecate on the eggs to dissuade any potential predators from the nests if there is a threat of predators in the area.

Additionally, they start hopping away from the nests while acting like they are incapacitated. Another fascinating aspect about these species is that, while not being particularly vocal, when they do call out, it sounds a lot like a cat in search of a mate.

Scientific NameAsio flammeus
Length13–17 in (34–43 cm)
Weight7.3–16.8 oz (206–475 g)
Wingspan33.5-40.5 inches (85–103 cm)
Commonly Found InOpen areas, particularly meadows and grasslands, are preferred even for nesting by Short-Eared Owls in large numbers. Additionally, throughout the winter, it is frequently seen in marshes, gravel and rock quarries, wooded areas, and shrubbery.

5. Long-Eared Owl

Characterized by their signature long ears, these owls are often termed Northern Long-Eared Owls, Lesser Horned Owls, or Cat Owls as well. This is due to the cat-like features that these owls have, along with their pointy ears.

Even though most Owl species are solitary creatures, the Long-Eared Owls are, in fact, quite the social butterfly among their breeds. They often tend to breed and nest in groups while also sharing roots as well!

One of the most interesting facts about these owls is that their ability to camouflage themselves is uncanny. It makes them almost impossible to spot them!

So if you’re wondering why you have never seen one of these, chances are you probably have, but your eyes never got the chance to register them in your visuals!

Scientific NameAsio otus
Length12 –16 in (31 –40 cm)
Weight10.2 oz – 11.5 oz (288 g – 327 g)
Wingspan34 in – 40 in (86 –102 cm)
Commonly Found InThese species prefer to reside in and are most frequently seen in areas of dense vegetation. They particularly favor living in pine forests, ranches, and grasslands.

6. Boreal Owl

These birds are smaller and more rounded than their Long-Eared counterpart and exhibit a more reserved personality. They are quite secretive and tend to shy away from civilization and keep to themselves.

Additionally, being completely nocturnal, along with their surreptitious nature, spotting them can be a challenge indeed.

Scientific NameAegolius funereus
Length9 – 10 in (22.86 cm – 25.40 cm)
Weight4.23 inches (120 g)
Wingspan20 – 24 in (50.8cm – 60.96cm)
Commonly Found InThese tiny species of owls can be most commonly spotted in coniferous forests of mountains.

7. Barred Owl

The Barred Owl or the Hoot Owl is one of the most common types of owls that can be found. They are quite large in size and can easily be distinguished by the stripes of different shades of brown on their wings.

Their signature hooting calls are probably heard by everyone as they are mostly used in movies and TV shows. Interestingly, their calls sound like someone asking, “who cooks for you?”

They are incredibly perceptive creatures and will often keep on staring at you if you happen to come across one. It almost feels like they are peering into your soul, but they are very inquisitive creatures in general.

Scientific NameStrix varia
Length16–25 inches (40–63 cm)
Weight1–2.75 lbs (500–1250 g)
Wingspan38–49 inches (96–125 cm)
Commonly Found InBarred owls favor old, mixed forests close to bodies of water, especially where there are extensive stretches of uninterrupted forest and swamps. However, they can also be quite commonly spotted in suburban areas.

8. Great Horned Owl

These are resident Owls of Rhode Island and can be found throughout the year. They are one of the largest species, signified by the ‘horns’ on top of their round heads, which are essentially tufts of feathers.

Their calls and hoots are also most common in movies and shows. Moreover, their diet is vast and can range from birds, including other small owls, fish, reptiles as well as insects.

Scientific NameBubo virginianus
Length17-25 in (43 – 64 cm)
Weight2.5 to 4 lbs (1134 – 1814 g)
Wingspan3 – 5 feet (91-153 cm)
Commonly Found InThese owls can inhabit and are most commonly found in various environments, such as forests, swamps, tundra, prairies, deserts, and urban settings like city parks.

9. Eastern Screech-Owl

This is yet again another owl species that can be found all year round in Rhode Island. However, unlike their larger counterpart that we previously explored, these owls are much smaller.

They can come in 3 different shades of red, brown, and grey and have very distinctive ‘bark’ like feather patterns that aid in excellent camouflaging.

However, unlike the majority of the owl species, these small ones can actually be seen around people.

In fact, they have often seen nesting inside populated buildings, streetlamps, and even highways. Although they also do prefer the woods.

Their name comes from the even-pitched screech that they tend to give off as a means of communicating with each other. This call is called a tremolo and sort of sounds like mating toads!

Scientific NameMegascops asio
Length6.3– 9.8 in (16–25 cm)
Weight4.2–8.6 oz. (120–244 g)
Wingspan18–24 in (46–61 cm)
Commonly Found InThey are most commonly found in wooded areas, however, away from other larger owl species. Moreover, they can also be seen nesting on streetlamps, buildings, and attics.

Closing thoughts

Rhode Island is one of my favourite places for owl-spotting and watching them in action. Very few states offers such great opportunities to watch owls so closely in the wild. For anyone on the fence regarding visiting Rhode Island for owls, my suggestion is to pack the binoculars and hit the road already.

Feature Image Credits: Alan Tunnicliffe, Shutterstock

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