Out of eighteen species of owls found in North America, Maryland is home to eight species. A few of them live year-round while others aren’t so common. Species like Barred Owls, Eastern Screech Owls, Great Horned Owls are common. Northern Saw-whet Owls, Burrowing Owls, and Snowy Owls are migratory in nature. Species like Long-Eared Owls and Short-Eared Owls once used to breed in Maryland but now visit occasionally.
The eight different species of owls that can be found in Maryland are:
- Eastern screech-owl
- Great horned owl
- Snowy owl
- Burrowing owl
- Barred Owl
- Long-eared owl
- Short-eared owl
- Northern saw-whet owl
In this article, we will go through all these different species of owls in Maryland and learn more about them. If you are excited to read about these owls, then keep scrolling.
Length – 6.3 – 9.8 in
Weight – 4.2 – 8.6 oz
Wingspan – 18 – 24 in
Known for their small size, eastern screech-owls are really common in Eastern North America. They live year-round and can easily be found in Maryland, especially at night. They are stocky with a large head, yellow eyes, and no neck. They fly really fast and are fierce hunters.
They can be found in either gray or reddish-brown color combined with bands and spots, which help them in camouflaging. Yes, they are expert in camouflaging and hiding. That’s the reason you might not spot them throughout the day.
One of the most interesting things about these owls is that they have fake ear-tuffs on the top of their head. They are fond of woody areas and can be found in evergreen or deciduous types of woods near water. They nest in cavities but also accept nest boxes.
As the name suggests, they make a screeching sound, which sounds a lot like a horse’s whinny. They hunt during the night and feed on frogs, lizards, rodents, insects, small birds, etc. They are pretty common in suburban areas.
Great Horned Owl
Length – 17 – 35 in
Weight – 32 – 88 oz
Wingspan – 40 – 57 in
Great horned owls are known for their large size and fierce look. When you think of owl, you most probably think of great horned owls. They have large intimidating yellow eyes; ear tufts, and they even make the typical “hoo-hoo” sound that’s generally associated with owls. They are the heaviest owls after the popular snowy owls.
They are pretty common owls. They are extremely adaptable in terms of habitat and are satisfied with trees and rocky nesting sites. They live in Maryland year around and nest in tree cavities, nest boxes, and cliff ledges. They even nest in the old or abandoned nests of squirrels, crows, etc. Like every predator, they are also good at camouflaging themselves.
These owls are aggressive hunters, and they hunt voles, insects, mice, etc. One of the interesting things about them is that due to their poor sense of smell, they are the only known predator of common skunk, which is a great achievement since common skunks are known for their defense from predators.
They also feed on other larger animals like rabbits, raptors, etc. Their diet generally depends on the habitat they live in. They are very common in North America, be it Arctic souths or the tropics.
Length – 20.7 – 25.2 in
Weight – 56.4 – 104.1 oz
Wingspan – 48 – 60 in
Extremely beautiful in appearance, snowy owls are migrating owls. They rarely breed at the same locations or with the same partners on an annual basis. If the prey is unavailable, they often do not breed at all. They can sometimes be seen in Maryland, especially during winter when they migrate south since hunting isn’t great in its Arctic habitat.
These owls are large in size and heavily feathered. They are, in fact, the largest owls in North America on the basis of their weight. They are one of the largest owls in the world.
As the name suggests, they are white in color with some horizontal dark lines on their bodies. You won’t find any other species with such white plumage like snowy owls. They have beautiful bright yellow eyes and a relatively small head. You might recognize them as Harry Potter’s popular owl, Hedwig. They are active at night and are known for their specialized hunting skills.
Their habitat includes tundra, meadows, marshes, and dunes. These owls feed on lemmings during summer and waterfowl during winter. They even consume voles, rodents, birds, rabbits, etc.
Length – 7.5 – 9.8 in
Weight – 5.3 oz
Wingspan – 21.6 in
Burrowing owls can easily be found throughout North America. During winter, they migrate south, and that’s when you can find them in Maryland. They are ground-dwelling owls and one of the smallest owls that can be found in North America.
These owls are sandy colored and have bright eyes. They are diurnal birds, which means that they stay active both day and night. So, unlike many other species, they are active during the day, although they do hunt at night.
Instead of trees, they live in open habitats like a prairie, pastures, deserts, etc. As the name suggests, they use burrows as their nest, especially the abandoned burrows of groundhogs or prairie dogs. They do, occasionally, dug their own burrows as well. Due to such habitat, they have comparatively longer legs.
One of the interesting things about these owls is that they hide in the burrow and produce a sound like a rattlesnake when they feel threatened.
These owls are opportunistic feeders, and they feed on insects, small mammals, reptiles, small birds, etc. They are known for their excellent vision and hearing, which help them in capturing their prey. You can easily spot a burrowing owl during dusk or even dawn.
Length – 16 – 25 in
Weight – 16 – 44 oz
Wingspan – 38 – 49 in
Barred owls are the nocturnal species and occasionally diurnal. They are common in Maryland and can be found throughout the year. They are slightly smaller than the Great Horned Owls and can easily be spotted in the wild. They have yellow or dark brown eyes, round head, and no ear tufts.
They are greyish-brown or brown in color and have horizontal light brown and dark brown stripes on wings, back, and tail. These owls are known for their curious and inquisitive nature. You would often find them observing you.
They live in dense and mature forests of deciduous and evergreen trees, often near water. They nest in cavities and use abandoned nests of squirrel, crows, hawks, etc. They are attracted to bright lights. You might find them around your campfires, hunting insects.
They rely on rats, rabbits, bats, frogs, small birds, etc. for their diet. One of the most interesting things about these owls is that their hooting sounds like “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” Yes, the scary owl noise that you hear in horror movies belongs to barred owls.
Length -13.8 – 15. 8 in
Weight – 8 – 15.3 oz
Wingspan – 35 – 39.4 in
Long-eared owls once used to nest in Maryland, but now they are occasional migrants. This is one of the most widely distributed and most numerous species of owls in the world. Although they look similar to the Great-horned owls, they are smaller in size and even more slender in shape.
In fact, they are the slimmest of all owls that are found in North America. This shape helps them to hide from their predator. They have orange face patches, yellow or orange eyes, and long tufts of feathers on their heads.
They live in thick woods but hunt in open fields and marshes. They are nocturnal and secretive. They are extremely hard to spot, as they are excellent at camouflaging. They nest in tree cavities and also make use of old American Crow or squirrel nests. Like many other species, these owls are known for silent flight and precision hunting. They also have the incredible hearing capability.
They generally feed on voles and small rodents. They also eat birds, especially when food is short. The best way to locate these owls is by listening to them as they are really hard to spot.
They make a distinctive and long “hoooo” call. They are pretty sociable and can be easier to be spot in winter as they roost in large numbers. The oldest wild long-eared owl on record lived for approximately 28 years.
Length – 13 – 17 in
Weight – 7.3 – 16.8 oz
Wingspan – 33.5 – 40.5 in
Much like long-eared owls, short-eared owls are also mainly seen during migration, although once they used to breed in Maryland. They are one of the world’s most widely distributed owls.
These owls are medium in size and have rounded wings. They have a big head, black-rimmed yellow eyes, and a short neck. As the name suggests, they have small ear tufts, which are often invisible.
They generally nest in open areas like meadows, tundra, prairies, etc. Sometimes, they also use nest boxes. They can be seen sitting on the ground or flying low in search of prey. They are known for their distinctive flight style, which is moth-like. Although they look a lot like long-eared owls, they can be distinguished with the help of the ear tufts, iris color, structure, etc.
They are active around dawn and dusk. They mostly hunt during the daytime and exclusively feed on voles and rodents. They also hunt small birds. Although these owls aren’t much vocal, they do make a scratchy-barking call. You can easily spot them at dusk or dawn as they commonly fly during these times in search of food.
Northern Saw-Whet Owl
Length – 6.5 – 9 in
Weight – 1.9 – 5.3 oz
Wingspan – 16.5 – 22.2 in
Northern Saw-whet Owls are one of the smallest owls that you will find in Maryland or on earth. These birds are highly migratory and are very rarely spotted in Maryland, particularly during fall. They are reddish-brown in color and have yellow eyes, and they lack ear tufts. With a dark beak and yellow eyes, they look mesmerizing.
Like most of the owl species, they usually prefer dense coniferous or mixed forest as their habitat. They nest in natural cavities or abandoned holes of woodpeckers. They also accept nest boxes. One of the interesting things about these owls is that they are considered one of the most winsome birds.
These owls are strictly nocturnal and spend their night hunting prey. They feed on deer mice, voles, and shrews. They even consume small birds, insects, etc. They make raspy sound, and their hooting resembles the sound of “whetting” or sharpening of a saw.
Some interesting facts about Maryland’s Owls
Do you know that all these owls can turn their head 135 degrees in either direction? It has happened due to a series of adaptations like bone adaptations, supporting vascular network, etc. that give these birds this superpower.
The eyes of owls are fixed in place, which means that in order to see, they have to move their heads since they can’t move their eyes. Spooky, right? It is simply because they lack spherical eyeballs and have eye tubes. Their eyes are far-sighted, which helps them to spot their prey.
Not just head and eyes, owls even have a super-powered hearing. They can easily hear their prey under the leaves, dirt, snow, etc. Some owls have ear tufts while some have different sets of ears. They can easily locate their prey by just hearing them.
Well, even the flight of these birds is silent as they have special feathers to break turbulence into small currents, reducing sound. They should already get the award for best hunters. Just in case you are wondering, owls eat other owls as well. For example, the great horned owl hunts barred owl, which, in turn, doesn’t mind eating western screech-owl.
You won’t believe, but the burrowing owls hunt with poop. Yes, you read it right. They use poop as bait for dung beetles. They surround the entrance of their burrows with dung and then sit outside, pretending they are doing nothing. Clever, no?
We hope you enjoyed reading about these absolutely stunning owls that can be found in Maryland and learned some interesting things. Do let us know which owl species made its way into your heart.