8 Species of Owls in Minnesota (Pictures and Info)

Owls in Minnesota

Owl, known for its secretive nature and wisdom, is charming enough to be the favorite bird species for many. Its mysterious nature has always been the research topic for bird lovers and bird watchers. Minnesota is the place where you can find a number of owl species that are different due to their physical appearance, features, eating habits, lifestyle, and size.

If you are a bird watcher, researching this mysterious bird, or love the owl, this article is going to make your day with different species of owls and some fun facts about them. We have shared below an extensive guide on the species of owls that live in Minnesota.


Great Horned Owl (Bubo Virginianus)

Great Horned Owl Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The orangey face and black and white lines on the body of the great horned owl might remind you of a tiger. And that is why they are popularly known as the tiger with wings. These fierce-looking large owls hide from the predators.

They adopt with the horizontal bars on their underside and look like a tree branch that makes them look leafy or just a part of the tree when you look from the above.


Reasons they are a successful hunter

One great horned owl can eat 4,000 mice per year. And they are enough strong and powerful to fight and kill a skunk. Apart from mice, the great-horned owl also loves squirrel, voles, hawks, ducks, and other small owls.

This well-adapted bird of prey has a remarkable hearing. The remarkable hearing quality makes them a great hunter. To search for its prey, it can turn its neck almost 270 degrees. The other qualities that make them a fantastic hunter are –

  • The circular-shaped face.
  • The ability to turn its head helps it to focus on sounds made by its prey.
  • With their strong sense of hearing, they can easily recognize the sound and understand when the prey is nearby.
  • The earholes of the great horned owls are a little different. One is higher than the other, and that enables them to identify the location of a sound.

Another significant quality of an owl is its remarkable vision. Just like humans, the two-eye-vision enables them in depth perception. They can find their prey even in the low light.


How to identify Great Horned Owls

Look for their large yellow eyes and long tufts feathers that look like horns. That is the reason they are named the great horned owl.

The other specifications of this species are –

Color – Grey, reddish-brown, black, and white.

Length – 18 and 25 inches.

Weight – Three to five pounds.

Sounds – Loud hooting high pitched screeches.



Their diet list includes mice, squirrels, voles, and other mammals. They also hunt crows, hawks, waterfowl, and smaller owls.


Interesting fact

Did you know the great horned owls have long eyelashes? Yes, their long eyelashes make them even more charming.


Barred Owl (Strix Varia)

Barred Owl Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Barred owl, also known as Hoot Owl, is another species of unthreatened, nocturnal owls found in Minnesota. The horizontal stripes of light brown and dark brown color on their wings, tail, and back are the reason they are named barred owl.

It is one of the most common owls in Minnesota. Their observing power shows how curious and inquisitive they are.


How to identify Barred Owls

One of the easiest ways to identify them is their evening call, which sounds like “who cooks for you, who cooks for you”. This medium-sized bird has no ear tufts. Unlike the other species of owls in Minnesota, it has dark eyes while the other owls have yellow eyes.

The other features of barred owls are –

Length – 17 to 20 inches

Weight – 1 to 2 pounds

Sounds – Eerie wails and screeches and loud distinctive hooting



Barred owls generally eat rabbits, mice, frogs, birds, squirrels, crayfish, and fish. And they are the predators of hawks, raccoons, and great horned owls. They nest in dense forest areas.


Interesting fact

The right ear of barred owls is higher than its left one. It helps them hearing from two different angles and determine the location of prey.


Long-eared Owl (Asio Otus)

Long-eared Owl - eBird

Also known as Northern Long-Eared Owl, Cat Owl, or Lesser Horned Horned owl, long-eared owls are another popular species in Minnesota.

The mottled brown color helps them to blend into the tree bark and hunts its prey. The long ears are actually not the ears; these are the feathers that look like ears.

They are very secretive in nature.


How to identify Long-eared Owls

The short neck, big eyes, and the conspicuous tufts on the top of the head are some of the features that distinguish this species from others.

The other specifications are –

Size – 12 to 15 inches tall. They are crow-sized to be specified. The wingspan is up to 3 feet.

Color – While the back of a long-eared owl is grey with dark bars, the breast has stripes. The face is orange with a black and white outline.

Sounds – It makes different sounds, including hoots, whistles, shrieks, alarm calls.



The favorite food of long-eared owls are voles and other small animals. However, 90% of them prefer rodents in their daily diet. They generally hunt their food in the open spaces during the night time. The long-eared owls also like snakes, birds, and other insects in their diet.


Interesting fact

A long-eared owl looks more like a crow than an owl because of their thin body. It is difficult to distinguish them from a tree branch when they stretch out. They always have a surprising look on their face.


Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops Asio)

Eastern Screech-Owl Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

With no neck at all, the eastern screech owl looks like a professional wrestler (on a funny note). They are named so because of their descending cry that sounds like a crying baby.

Eastern screech owls are mainly found in southern and central Minnesota. Because of their small size, they can live anywhere, be it a screech owl box, duck box, or a tree cavity. They are the favorite food option for the great-horned owls.


How to identify Eastern Screech Owls

The most common way to identify them is their tiny grey or reddish body and ear tufts. Also, the big yellow eyes are something to notice. The other specifications include –

Size – 7 to 10 inches tall, and their wingspan is up to 2 feet.

Weight – 7 to 8 ounces

Color – They can be of two colors in the different stages of life. They are – gray and red.

Sounds – As the name suggests, it screeches like a baby cry.



Small birds, animals, rodents, and reptiles are the food they hunt. They find their prey sometimes from the land and sometimes from the water.


Interesting facts

One of its earholes is higher than the other, which helps them to identify the source of the sound of its prey.


Snowy owls (Bubo Scandiacus)

Snowy Owl Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

They are perhaps the most beautiful creatures on the planet, especially if you love birds. The stunning white color will mesmerize anyone. Snowy owls do not live in Minnesota throughout the year. They visit the place during the winter months. So, they are basically migrator birds.


How to identify Snowy owls

Identifying the snowy owls is the easiest. They are large, white in color with a round neck. Just like other owls, they also have yellow eyes. Snowy owls have a black beak and have no ear tufts.

The other specifications include –

Length – More or less 22 inches

Color – Pure white with black or brown stripes.

Weight – Approximately 5 pounds that is almost the same as the great-horned owls.

Sound – Snowy owls mainly hoot. However, they can also make different calls during nesting time.



Like other owls, snowy owls also love eating voles, lemmings, rabbits, mice, and birds.


Interesting facts 

The snow-like color helps them a lot to camouflage in the snow-covered areas, which also helps them to hunt. Hedwig, Harry Potter’s owl, is a female snowy owl.


Boreal owl (Aegolius Funereus)

Boreal Owl - eBird

Boreal owls are one of the smallest owl species in Minnesota. They are as little as a robin bird, which makes it really difficult to spot them at night. They can be of different colors and patterns. Boreal owls can be reddish-brown or grey and have either dots or stripes on their body.

Since boreal owls live in the gigantic boreal forests of Canada, they are named so. Being the inhabitants of remote areas, people get to know very little about this species, and they are hard to study.


How to identify Boreal owls

The best way to identify them is their size. This robin-sized owl has a brown body and a white-spotted blackhead. They are also popularly known for their black rim around the face, black forehead, and yellow beak. Like snowy owls, they also don’t have any ear tufts.

The other specifications include –

Size – 9 to 10 inches long and the wingspan is up to 21 inches.

Color – While the face is black and white, the body of boreal owls are brown with a brown-stripes on their white breast.

Sounds – It whistles and makes a sound like “po-po-po”



These small owls love rodents and hunt their prey during the night. They often dive for capturing their prey when they hear something scurrying below. The nature that distinguishes them from other owls is their nature of storing extra food in cold weather.


Some interesting facts

Since their eyes face forward, they get a greater perception of things. Also, like other owls, their one earhole is higher than the other, and it helps them to find its prey depending on the sound they make.


Barn Owl (Tyto Alba)

Barn Owl Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Though this type of owl is rare in Minnesota, they are quite popular among birdwatchers. They can occasionally be found in the southern part of Minnesota. These owls are also known as Church owl, Monkey faced owl, and ghost owl. They are popularly known for being the most efficient hunter by sound.


How to identify Barn Owls

Identifying barn owl is no big deal. The heart-shaped face and long legs distinguish it from others. If you find a ghostly figure in an abandoned church or place, they are the barn owl for sure. Unlike the other owls in Minnesota, they don’t have any yellow eyes; instead, they have dark eyes.

The other specifications of barn owls are –

Size – 14 to 20 inches long and 43 to 47 inches long when they wingspan.

Color – They are mainly light-colored. While the chest and stomach are golden, the back is of rust color.

Sounds – They make several noises, including grunt, hiss, scream, etc.



Though barn owls eat inspects, fish, reptiles, and birds, rodents are on the top of their favorite food list.


Interesting facts about barn owls

The heart-shaped design of face feathers makes them unique from the others. Though other owls have only one mate for life, 25% of barn owls can change their partner or get divorced. Because of their mice-eating capability (up to 1000 mice per year), they are also known as natural pest control.


Northern Hawk Owls (Surnia Ulula)

Northern Hawk Owl Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Northern hawk owls look like a hawk to some extent, and that is the reason they are named so. Though they are typically not from Minnesota, they migrate to the place during the winter.


How to identify Northern Hawk Owls

The best way to distinguish them is their hawk-like shape and the long pointed tail. The other specifications of this owl are –

Size – 15 to 18 inches

Color – The face is white with black markings, and the body is painted with brown, black, and a white chest.

Sound – When they call, they make a “ki ki ki” sound. They also whistle and screech.



Rodents are their favorite food in Summer, and they prefer other birds during the winter.


Interesting facts about Northern Hawk Owls

They can be easily tamed and often stay with humans. Watching birds or studying on owls is really fun. Gather more knowledge about your favorite bird species


Conclusion: Types of Owls in Minnesota

Well, these were the 8 owl species that live in Minnesota. I hope you enjoyed reading this article. If you have any questions regarding any owl species in Minnesota, you are free to drop your question in the comment section.


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