10 Types Of Owls in Illinois

Illinois is situated in the Midwestern United States. Speaking of its geography, it shares borders with Indiana in the east and the Mississippi River in the north. The state is often referred to as “The Prairie State.” The reason is, it is abundant in wildlife. Interestingly, there are numerous owl species in the state. In this article, we will explore in detail the ten most owls in Illinois found in this state. Let’s talk about each of them closely.

Owls in Illinois

1. Eastern Screech Owl

The eastern screech owl is a common resident of the eastern regions of North America. These regions include Mexico, Canada, and the United States. In Illinois, these owls are frequently found in areas rich with trees and even in residential neighborhoods. They display nocturnal behavior, which makes them challenging to spot. To spot/ observe this owl species, listen for their distinct sounds during the night. Surprisingly, despite its name, the eastern screech owl does not actually screech or make any such sound.

Eastern Screech Owl

Image Source: Wikimedia

2. Northern Saw-whet Owl

The northern saw-whet owl is a small bird native to North America. This is also one of the owls in Washington state known for being one of the tiniest in its range. In the state of Illinois, it is commonly observed during the winter season. Despite its prevalence in North America, its small size and nocturnal habits make it hard to be noticed. To identify the northern saw-whet owl, listen for its distinctive tooting sound. The sound they make resembles a saw being sharpened on a whetstone. It was the sound that gave the owl its name. It is also listed as one of the most popular owls in South carolina.

Northern Saw-whet Owl

3. Barn Owl

The Barn Owl, with its strikingly beautiful white face, can be spotted throughout Illinois. It is a common inhabitant of the state. Being strictly nocturnal and one of the birds chirping at night, they primarily hunt small rodents like mice, voles, and lemmings. They consume their prey whole and regurgitate pellets containing the bones. Moreover, they have exceptional hearing ability. Using that, barn owls rely on sound to locate their next meal. Barn Owls are classified as endangered in Illinois, despite their presence all over the state,

Barn Owl

4. Snowy Owl

Snowy Owls are not commonly seen in Illinois and are one of the popular animals that live in the Tundra region, but they can occasionally appear in the state during their irruptive winter timings. The irruptive range is variable, leading to inconsistencies in their visits during winter. When Snowy Owls establish a winter site, they tend to return to the same location time and again. It is also listed as one of the white animals in the world.

This is the primary reason they are listed under winter animals in the world. Unlike many other white bird species, spotting Snowy Owls is relatively easier if they are in your vicinity or are regular visitors. Interestingly, they are nocturnal and hence, they are active during the day. For hunting their prey, they prefer wide-open spaces like grasslands, grounds et cetera.

Snowy owl

5. Northern Hawk Owl

The Northern Hawk Owl can be rarely found in far northern Illinois. While it can be spotted at the very southern edge during winter. They usually don’t venture this far south unless prey is scarce. These owls typically inhabit the boreal forests of Canada, but some migrate to the northern United States during winter, especially when food is scarce in Canada due to declining populations. One intriguing aspect of Northern Hawk Owls is their diurnal hunting behavior. Unlike most owls, they are active during the day, relying on sight rather than their poor hearing to locate their prey.

6. Long-eared Owl

The long-eared owl has an extensive breeding range. It spans from Europe to North America. This owl is known by various names, such as the northern long-eared owl, lesser horned owl, or cat owl. It is frequently observed in open habitats. Do you know that Illinois is an ideal place to spot them? They are more commonly seen in winter like various other owls. Moreover, they have a non-breeding range in the state. The distinguishing feature of the long-eared owl is its visible ear tufts. Their ear tufts resemble those of the great-horned owl.

Long-eared Owls

7. Burrowing Owl

The burrowing owl is a desert bird native to both North and South America. Notably, the owl has distinctive long legs and a burrowing lifestyle. As the name suggests, these weirdest birds prefer to inhabit burrows rather than traditional nests. Moreover, it often utilizes abandoned ones from animals like prairie dogs. In Illinois, you are likely to spot them in open habitats where burrows are easily accessible. Apart from their long legs, the burrowing owl features bright eyes, a yellow or grey beak, and a flat facial disc. Speaking of their body color, it includes brown on the head and white spots on the wings.

Burrowing Owl

8. Short-eared owls

Short-eared Owls are well-adapted to open fields and grasslands. These birds of Kauai have even been observed thriving near human settlements, including airports and public parks. At airports, these owls take advantage of insects displaced by landing planes. They grab the opportunity to swoop down and catch their prey. Their name is derived from ear tufts, similar to the Great Horned Owl. When we talk about the tufts of this species, they are usually very short and hardly visible. Short-eared Owls glide noiselessly across grasslands using broad, rounded wings. Moreover, they are most active during dawn and dusk.

Short-eared Owl

9. Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl is a very well-known owl species and is a permanent resident of Illinois. It is the second-largest owl in North America and it possesses remarkable strength. Interestingly, these types of brown birds can prey on animals larger than themselves. Its diet is diverse, ranging from small frogs to jackrabbits and even crows. To capture larger prey, the owl uses its powerful grip. Its grip is so strong that it requires 28 pounds of force to unclench the same. The Great Horned Owl is one of the chaparral animals in the world and it can be spotted in various habitats, including forests and urban areas.

Great Horned Owl

10. Boreal Owl

The last one on our list is the boreal owl. It is also known as Tengmalm’s owl and is found in North America and Europe. Due to its shy and nocturnal nature, this bird is seldom observed by humans as it prefers to hide whenever someone is around. In Illinois, it makes appearances during winter, but locating it can be challenging for the reasons already mentioned. Similar to other timid owl species, the most effective way to find the boreal owl is by its distinct call. Their call is a series of toots that can be heard clearly at night.

Boreal Owl

These are the types of owls in Illinois. Kindly share and do post your comments.

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