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237 Types of Owls (A-Z List of Owl Species)

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There are about 250 species of owls in existence, split into two different families: Tytonidae (barn owls) and Strigidae (typical owls). These can be found on every continent, except Antarctica.

Owls. Intriguing creatures have long been the focus of fascination and mystery for many people. They’re a diverse group of birds, both in terms of behavior and looks.

However, despite our familiarity with these creatures, there are still some pretty fascinating facts about owls that remain largely unknown to the average person. 

In this article, we’ll be sharing some little-known facts about owls, particularly about the types of owls in existence. We’ll compare types of owls with each other, and take a look at the differences.

What Are the Different Types of Owls?

Owls are split into two families: Tytonidae and Strigidae. Each of these families has its own traits and characteristics that set them apart.[1]

There are many types of owls with different types of personality traits, types of food preferences, types of homes, and types of noises that the owl makes. 

Let’s take a closer look at the basic types of owls together with the different owl species in each type.

TraitTytonidaeStrigidae
DistributionMostly tropical regionsAll continents except Antarctica
HabitatsForests, open woodland areas, and open grasslandsAll habitats, from deserts to arctic tundras
Feeding habitsSmaller of stature and hence feeds on rodents and small prey[2]Small species feed on rodents, while big species can feed on large birds and medium-sized mammals[3]

Tytonidae Owls

Tytonidae owls (also known as barn owls) are types of owls that prey mainly on rodents, such as mice and rats. These types of owls can be set apart from all other types because they have round faces and short beaks. There are 16 Tytonidae owls.

Barn owl at a bird show

Owls belonging to the Tytonidae family typically share a few characteristics: they have heart-shaped facial disks, their bills are compressed, and they are smaller than Strigidae owls.[4]

Some of the most common Tytonidae owls include the Common Barn owls, Sooty owls, and Masked owls.

List of Tytonidae Owls

  • African Grass-Owl
  • Ashy-Faced Owl
  • Australian Masked-Owl
  • Common Barn-Owl
  • Congo Bay-Owl
  • Eastern Grass-Owl
  • Golden Masked-Owl
  • Greater Sooty-Owl
  • Lesser Sooty-Owl
  • Madagascar Red Owl
  • Minahassa Masked-Owl
  • Oriental Bay-Owl
  • Seram Masked-Owl
  • Sri Lanka Bay-Owl
  • Sulawesi Masked-Owl
  • Taliabu Masked-Owl

Read about three different types of Tytonidae owls below.

African Grass-Owl (Tyto Capensis)

The African grass owl (Tyto capensis) is a type of owl that lives throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

This species of barn owl mainly has dark brown upper parts and chest, with white spotting on its belly. It makes nests out of the grass in the sand, which it lines with feathers to make them comfortable for its young.[5]

African Grass-Owl

Like most owls, this species is typically nocturnal. During the day, they rest in vegetation or empty holes that have been abandoned by other animals.

They are able to sit still for very long periods of time, which helps them avoid detection by predators. This species of owl is a carnivore and will eat most types of small rodents, lizards, snakes, and insects.

Ashy-Faced Owl (Tyto Glaucops)

There is only one type of Ashy-Faced Owl (Tyto Glaucops), and it inhabits South America, specifically Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

This species exclusively roosts in holes or crevices on trees and cliffs during the day but becomes nocturnal once it gets dark.[6]

Ashy-Faced Owl

Ashy-faced owls are also extremely secretive and only hunts for food under the cover of darkness, so very little research has been done on this particular owl. However, it is known that they travel in pairs and use a “hoot” call to communicate with each other.

Australian Masked-Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae)

The Australian Masked-Owl is a medium-sized owl, with many types and variations. They are widely represented throughout the wide range of Eastern Australia and New Zealand.

Some types of owls have different colorations, patterns, and/or designs on their feathers that distinguish them from other types of masked owls. Typically, these owls have brown and white markings.

They also have a unique marking that is typical for barn owls: the “mask” across their eyes and face.

Strigidae Owls

Strigidae Owls (typical or true owls) are the biggest family of owls, containing about 225 species. They are the most common types of owls, belonging to the Strigiformes order[3].

Barred Owl

Being the biggest family of owls, the Strigidae family is made up of about 225 true owls, found all over the world. They’re known for their ability to turn their heads 270 degrees, as well as their hunting capabilities.

Here are a few of the most common characteristics of Strigidae Owls:

  • Round faces with short bills
  • Broad, rounded, medium-length wings
  • Strong feet with long talons for catching prey
  • Females are generally larger than males

List of Strigidae Owls​​

  • African Barred Owlet
  • African Long-Eared Owl
  • African Scops-Owl
  • African Wood-Owl
  • Akun Eagle-Owl
  • Albertine Owlet
  • Amazonian Pygmy-Owl
  • Andaman Boobook
  • Andaman Scops-Owl
  • Andean Pygmy-Owl
  • Anjouan Scops-Owl
  • Annobon Scops-Owl
  • Arabian Scops-Owl
  • Asian Barred Owlet
  • Austral Pygmy-Owl
  • Baja Pygmy-Owl
  • Balsas Screech-Owl
  • Band-Bellied Owl
  • Banggai Scops-Owl
  • Bare-Legged Screech-Owl
  • Bare-Shanked Screech-Owl
  • Barking Owl
  • Barred Eagle-Owl
  • Barred Owl
  • Bearded Screech-Owl
  • Biak Scops-Owl
  • Bismarck Boobook
  • Black-and-White Owl
  • Black-Banded Owl
  • Black-Capped Screech-Owl
  • Blakiston’s Eagle-Owl
  • Boreal Owl
  • Brown Boobook
  • Brown Fish-Owl
  • Brown Wood-Owl
  • Buff-Fronted Owl
  • Buffy Fish-Owl
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Buru Boobook
  • Camiguin Boobook
  • Cape Eagle-Owl
  • Cebu Boobook
  • Central American Pygmy-Owl
  • Chaco Owl
  • Chestnut Owlet
  • Chestnut-Backed Owlet
  • Chocolate Boobook
  • Christmas Boobook
  • Cinnabar Boobook
  • Cinnamon Screech-Owl
  • Cloudforest Pygmy-Owl
  • Cloudforest Screech-Owl
  • Colima Pygmy-Owl
  • Collared Owlet
  • Collared Scops-Owl
  • Colombian Screech-Owl
  • Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl
  • Crested Owl
  • Cuban Pygmy-Owl
  • Desert Tawny Owl
  • Dusky Eagle-Owl
  • Eastern Screech-Owl
  • Elf Owl
  • Enggano Scops-Owl
  • Eurasian Eagle-Owl
  • Eurasian Pygmy-Owl
  • Eurasian Scops-Owl
  • Fearful Owl
  • Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
  • Flammulated Owl
  • Flores Scops-Owl
  • Forest Owlet
  • Fraser’s Eagle-Owl
  • Fulvous Owl
  • Giant Scops-Owl
  • Grand Comoro Scops-Owl
  • Great Grey Owl
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Greyish Eagle-Owl
  • Guadalcanal Boobook
  • Guatemalan Pygmy-Owl
  • Guatemalan Screech-Owl
  • Halmahera Boobook
  • Himalayan Owl
  • Hume’s Boobook
  • Indian Scops-Owl
  • Jamaican Owl
  • Japanese Scops-Owl
  • Javan Owlet
  • Javan Scops-Owl
  • Jungle Boobook
  • Jungle Owlet
  • Koepcke’s Screech-Owl
  • Least Boobook
  • Least Pygmy-Owl
  • Little Owl
  • Long-Tufted Screech-Owl
  • Long-Whiskered Owlet
  • Luzon Boobook
  • Luzon Highland Scops-Owl
  • Luzon Lowland Scops-Owl
  • Madagascar Long-Eared Owl
  • Madagascar Scops-Owl
  • Magellanic Horned Owl
  • Makira Boobook
  • Malaita Boobook
  • Maned Owl
  • Mantanani Scops-Owl
  • Manus Boobook
  • Marsh Owl
  • Mayotte Scops-Owl
  • Mentawai Scops-Owl
  • Mindanao Boobook
  • Mindanao Highland Scops-Owl
  • Mindanao Lowland Scops-Owl
  • Mindoro Boobook
  • Mindoro Scops-Owl
  • Moheli Scops-Owl
  • Moluccan Scops-Owl
  • Morepork
  • Mottled Owl
  • Mottled Wood-Owl
  • Mountain Pygmy-Owl
  • Mountain Scops-Owl
  • New Britain Boobook
  • Nicobar Scops-Owl
  • Northern Boobook
  • Northern Hawk-Owl
  • Northern Long-Eared Owl
  • Northern Pygmy-Owl
  • Northern Saw-Whet Owl
  • Northern White-Faced Owl
  • Ochre-Bellied Boobook
  • Omani Owl
  • Oriental Scops-Owl
  • Pacific Screech-Owl
  • Palau Owl
  • Palawan Scops-Owl
  • Pallid Scops-Owl
  • Papuan Boobook
  • Pearl-Spotted Owlet
  • Pel’s Fishing-Owl
  • Pemba Scops-Owl
  • Pernambuco Pygmy-Owl
  • Peruvian Pygmy-Owl
  • Peruvian Screech-Owl
  • Pharaoh Eagle-Owl
  • Philippine Eagle-Owl
  • Powerful Owl
  • Puerto Rican Screech-Owl
  • Rajah Scops-Owl
  • Red-Chested Owlet
  • Reddish Scops-Owl
  • Rinjani Scops-Owl
  • Rock Eagle-Owl
  • Romblon Boobook
  • Rufescent Screech-Owl
  • Rufous Fishing-Owl
  • Rufous Owl
  • Rufous-Banded Owl
  • Rufous-Legged Owl
  • Rusty-Barred Owl
  • Ryukyu Scops-Owl
  • Sandy Scops-Owl
  • Sangihe Scops-Owl
  • Sao Tome Scops-Owl
  • Seram Boobook
  • Serendib Scops-Owl
  • Seychelles Scops-Owl
  • Shelley’s Eagle-Owl
  • Short-Eared Owl
  • Siau Scops-Owl
  • Simeulue Scops-Owl
  • Sjostedt’s Owlet
  • Snowy Owl
  • Socotra Scops-Owl
  • Sokoke Scops-Owl
  • Southern Boobook
  • Southern White-Faced Owl
  • Speckled Boobook
  • Spectacled Owl
  • Spot-Bellied Eagle-Owl
  • Spotted Eagle-Owl
  • Spotted Owl
  • Spotted Owlet
  • Spotted Wood-Owl
  • Striped Owl
  • Stygian Owl
  • Subtropical Pygmy-Owl
  • Sula Scops-Owl
  • Sulawesi Scops-Owl
  • Sulu Boobook
  • Sumba Boobook
  • Sunda Scops-Owl
  • Tamaulipas Pygmy-Owl
  • Tanimbar Boobook
  • Tasmanian Boobook
  • Tawny Fish-Owl
  • Tawny Owl
  • Tawny-Bellied Screech-Owl
  • Tawny-Browed Owl
  • Togian Boobook
  • Tropical Screech-Owl
  • Tucuman Pygmy-Owl
  • Unspotted Saw-Whet Owl
  • Ural Owl
  • Vermiculated Fishing-Owl
  • Vermiculated Screech-Owl
  • Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl
  • Visayan Scops-Owl
  • Wallace’s Scops-Owl
  • West Solomons Boobook
  • Western Screech-Owl
  • Wetar Scops-Owl
  • Whiskered Screech-Owl
  • White-Browed Owl
  • White-Fronted Scops-Owl
  • White-Throated Screech-Owl
  • Yungas Pygmy-Owl
  • Yungas Screech-Owl

Read about three different Strigidae owls below.

African Barred Owlet (Glaucidium Capense)

The African Barred Owlet (Glaucidium Capense) is a nocturnal bird of prey whose native habitat includes the west coast of Africa, from Angola to Namibia. 

This can be seen in evergreen or deciduous forests, especially near water[6]. It has also been known as the Cape Scops Owl.

The African Barred Owlet is a small owl (hence the name), measuring about 13.5-14.5 inches from head to tail and weighing around 10 ounces. It has two white spots on each of its wings, as well as narrow black bars on the tips of its tail feathers. Its eyes are large, round, and yellow.

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)

The great horned owl is one of the most widely known owl species. It is native to the Americas, ranging both from the most northern parts to southern America. 

This species can be found in a wide variety of habitats with large trees for nesting, including deserts, forests, and temperate grasslands.

Being the biggest owls, they often take on large prey as well. They can often be seen feeding on large birds, such as osprey, or even medium-sized mammals such as foxes.[7]

Great Horned Owl

Short-Eared Owl (Asio Flammeus)

The Short-Eared Owl is a medium-sized owl native to the Northern Hemisphere, specifically Europe, Asia, and North America. It’s one of the most widespread owl species.

This owl can be found in grasslands where it hunts small mammals like rabbits and mice during the day. They are migratory birds, meaning they migrate seasonally due to changes in climate.

The short-eared owl mostly feeds on small prey, but they have been known to feed on larger animals including young rabbits, rats, squirrels, mice, ducks, and even small reptiles. 

Short-Eared Owl

The Largest Type of Owl

The Blakiston’s Fish Owl is the largest type of owl. It has a wingspan of 6.5 feet. The female is larger than the male. A full-grown Blakiston’s fish owl measures between 23 and 27 inches in height and weighs about six to nine pounds.

Blakiston’s fish owl is found in very specific habitats around the world. It nests in riparian forests where it nests in old, dead trees. It’s placed on the endangered species list.

Native to Asia, they can be seen in both Russia, China, and Hokkaido in Japan. They are very adaptable to their surroundings and have been known to migrate when necessary.

Related: The 5 Largest Owl Species

The Smallest Type of Owl

The smallest species is the elf owl. The elf owl is a very small type of owl, usually measuring only five to six inches in height and weighing less than two ounces.  

Elf owls don’t like to be around humans or other animals. They perceive most creatures as predators. Due to their small size, they like to hunt smaller insects, lizards, and rodents. 

The elf owl is only 5-6 inches tall. Its average wingspan for an elf owl is 16 inches.  Their feathers can be reddish-brown, gray, or a mix of the two. 

Even though they’re small, elf owls are very territorial and will attack other animals that approach their nesting area.

The small species live primarily in the southwestern United States, Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. They can be found living as high as 9,843 feet above sea level.

The Strongest Type of Owl

Great horned owls are known to be very powerful predators. Their talons can grow up to 2.2 inches in length, which is used to catch their prey, but they’re also very good swimmers. They can lift up to five pounds.

As the strongest owl, the great horned owl is known to take on large prey. They are so powerful that they’ve been known to kill animals as large as the following:

  • skunks
  • bobcats
  • raccoons
  • mall rodents
  • rabbits
  • fish
  • other birds
  • foxes
  • coyotes
  • porcupines
  • skunks
  • domestic cats
  • small dogs

They use their strong feet and large claws to grab a hold of their prey, crushing or choking them.

The Most Common Type of Owl

The most common type of owl is the barn owl. They’re found in almost all regions of the world, excluding polar regions, desert regions, Asia (north of the Himalayas), and some Pacific Islands.

The barn owl, one of the most widespread birds in the world, can live in almost any habitat. 

Barn owl feeding

As for their appearance, they have heart-shaped faces, large eyes that are placed in front for binocular vision, and are smaller in stature. 

This owl nests in holes in trees or buildings and eats small animals like rats, mice, and bats.

The Least Common Type of Owl

Blakiston’s fish owl (Bubo blakistoni) is one of the rarest owls in the world. Its natural range is in northern Japan and Russia, but the dense forests where the owls reside tend to be difficult for humans to access.

There are only around 3,000 of these birds left in the wild and are hence considered endangered[8]. Their main predators are foxes, small eagles, and other owls. 

Blakiston’s fish owl is one of two types of fish owls; the other is the Eurasian eagle-owl (Bubo bubo).

 Blakiston’s fish owl breeds during the winter, and its diet consists of 80% or more salmon and trout. This large aquatic bird will hunt along rivers, ponds, and streams for food.

Types of Owls Depending on Distribution

Owls are found in most places in the world, except Antarctica. They’re adaptable, skilled at hunting animals wherever they live.

Depending on the region, you’ll be able to find different owl species. Here are the most common in different regions of the world.

Owls in North America

North America is home to many species of owls – around 19 species can be found in the US. The following owl species are common to see in North America:

  • Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
  • Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)
  • Eastern Screech Owl (Otus asio)
  • Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
  • Magellanic Horned Owl (Bubo magellanicus)
  • Mottled Owl (Strix virgata)
  • Northern Hawk-owl (Surnia ulula)
  • Rufous-Legged Owl (Strix rufipes)
  • Spectacled Owl (Pulsatrix perspicillata)
  • Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis)

Owls in South America

South America is home to 64 species of owls, some native and restricted to the continent. Many of these owls migrate from North America to South America in the winter.

The following are some notable South American owl species:

  • Spectacled Owl
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Bare-shanked Screech Ow (Megascops clarkii)
  • Tropical Screech Owl (Megascops choliba)
  • Peruvian Screech Owl (Megascops roboratus)

Owls in Europe

The owls living in Europe are both different and alike those found in the Americas. Some species fly across the ocean, while others never leave the continent. These owls include:

  • Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo)
  • Eurasian Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium passerinum)
  • Eurasian Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium passerinum)
  • Eurasian Scops Owl (Otus scops)
  • European Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo)
  • European Tawny Owl (Strix aluco)
  • Iberian scops owl (Otus gurneyi)
  • Mediterranean Screech Owl (Otus scops)
  • Northern White-faced Owl (Ptilopsis leucotis)
  • Spectacled Owl (Pulsatrix perspicillata)
  • Steppe Eagle Owl (Bubo nipalensis)
  • Ural Owl (Strix uralensis)
  • Verreaux’s Eagle Owl (Bubo lacteus)

Owls in Asia

Asia as a continent is home to owls as well as many other species. There are twenty-three different types of owl in Asia, many of which can only be found on this continent.

The following list includes all the endemic Asian owls:

  • Asian Barred Owlet (Glaucidium cuculoides)
  • Collared Owls (Taenioptynx brodiei)
  • Scops Owl
  • Short-Eared Owl (Asio flammeus)

Owls in Africa

Africa has a large number of owls that are native to the continent. The following owls are examples of owls that live in Africa:

  • African Grass Owl (Tyto capensis)
  • Congo Bay Owl (Phodilus prigoginei)
  • Madagascar Red Owl (Tyto soumagnei)
  • Pemba Scops Owl (Otus pembaensis)
  • Sandy Scops Owl (Otus icterorhynchus)
  • Western Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

Owls in Australia

Is home to many different species of owls. Some are native to the continent and others are imported from New Zealand and Eurasia.

  • Australian Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae)
  • Barn owl (Tyto alba)
  • Little owl (Athene noctua)
  • Long-eared owl (Asio otus)
  • Powerful owl (Ninox strenua)
  • Sooty owl (Tyto tenebricosa)
  • Southern boobook (Ninox novaeseelandiae)
  • Tawny frogmouth (Podargus strigoides)

FAQs

Are There Black Owls?

There are no completely black owls in the world, but some birds come close. The most notable of these is probably the Greater Sooty Owl, which is native to New Guinea and adjacent islands. It has dark feathers that look quite black at a distance, though up close they have a brownish tinge to them. It has a white face and yellow eyes.

What Is a Ghost Owl?

The ghost owl is a rare species of bird that has recently been discovered in the Southeast United States. First sighted in 2010, this nocturnal species of owl hunts and nests during the night.

How Many Types of Owls Are There?

Owls are birds that belong to the Strigidae family and there are over 200 species of this bird worldwide. They can range from thirteen inches tall to thirty-eight inches tall and weigh anywhere from 0.1 lbs to 8.0 lbs.

What Owls Can You Keep as Pets?

In the US, individuals are not allowed to keep owls as pets. They’re difficult to keep, and you need special certification and training to be allowed to keep owls. They generally make for bad pets.

Related: Pet Owl Species

About Kaitlin Mullins

Birds are plenty, and they can be hard to keep track of. Thankfully, Katilin Mullins has taken charge of these. With plenty of free time spent bird watching, she’s a true expert on these intriguing animals.

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