Beautiful Owls

12 Different Species of Beautiful Owls

Owls are some of the most unique-looking birds in the animal kingdom. You can identify them by their large round or heart-shaped faces, bright round eyes, and feathery, fluffy bodies. These creatures are primarily nocturnal, making hooting sounds. Some people find owls to be beautiful, while others find them a bit creepy. If you’re fascinated by the various owl species, you’ll appreciate this rundown of some beautiful owls with which we’re lucky enough to share our planet. 

12 Cute, Striking, And Beautiful Owls 

All at once, owls are mysterious, cute, and a bit spooky. Let’s explore some species of these beautiful creatures. 

1. Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owl
Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

You’ll mostly find this little owl in the eastern parts of the United States, northeastern Mexico, and southeastern Canada. The Eastern screech owl has a body length of between 6 to 10 inches. Its wingspan spreads to 10 inches wide. The Eastern screech owl is a bit smaller than the Western screech owl. 

This owl is a small nocturnal animal possessing short ear tufts and yellow eyes. This screech owl species vary in color. Some of these owls come in gray, while others have a reddish-brown tone. 

You’ll mostly find them out at night, and they generally enjoy residing in areas with lots of trees in forests, city parks, and suburban yards. The Eastern screech owl forages at dusk and night to satisfy its broad diet. 

Although its name includes screech, this screech owl makes a descending tremolo call rather than a screeching sound. The bird hunts and feeds on small insects and large or small rodents. Some animals it goes hunting for include mice, beetles, small bird species, frogs, earthworms, and bats.

Related: Ever wondered what the smallest bird in the world is? Check out our article on the 6 smallest birds in the world to find out.  

2. Snowy Owl

Snowy owl
Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

The snowy owl, also called the polar owl or white owl, is becoming rarer in the wild. Scientists estimate its population to be around 30,000 and consider the snowy owl vulnerable

The snowy owl is native to the Arctic regions of Europe, North America, and Asia. These birds are also one of the largest owl breeds in Northern America. 

The snowy owl has a smooth, round head with dense feathers on its legs. The snowy owl has cat-like yellow eyes and primarily feeds on lemmings. The bird shows up irregularly in the winter in some areas and appears regularly in other areas to hunt for its prey across landscapes covered with snow. 

Snowy owl males and females have noticeable differences. The males are usually pure white, while the females are white with dark marks, except on the head. The snowy owl largely nests on the ground. They are usually silent unless nesting.

3. Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl
Photo by STEPHEN SHEPPARD on Unsplash

The burrowing owl is a small owl with long legs. Although not the smallest owl, this small owl measures around 7 to 10 inches tall. Unlike many owl species that take residence in trees, the burrowing owl mainly resides and nests in burrows. 

This owl is endemic to Central and South America. You’ll also find them in North America, spanning southern Canada through Mexico. 

This cute little owl has a round head. The burrowing owl sets its prey as main insects and small rodents. When hunting at night, it either flies or uses its long legs to sprint to capture prey. The burrowing owl is brown with small white spots. Like many owls, it also has yellow eyes. 

4. Barn Owl

Barn Owl
Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

The barn owl is the most common owl species worldwide. You can find this beautiful owl in almost all regions of the world. The exceptions are extreme polar regions due to extreme winter conditions that lead to poor food availability. 

Barn owls have white faces with heart-shaped heads and make haunting sounds synonymous with horror films and creepy tales. The barn owl hunts openly at night. It also serves as a form of pest control since it feeds on rats, mice, and other rodents. During nesting, barn owls gather additional prey to feed their young. The barn owl has downy feathers and excellent hearing, which helps it capture prey with ease. 

5. Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl
Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

The great horned owl, also Bubo Virginianus, is native to the Americas. This owl has long ear-tufts and bright yellow eyes to watch its environment. These owls are widespread and can easily adapt to regions they find themselves in. 

One of the ways you can identify the great horned owl is through its hooting sounds. The bird’s hooting allows it to defend its nesting area while it nests. For this reason, many people also know the great horned owl as the hoot owl. 

The great horned owl primarily goes hunting at night and feeds on a range of prey. This owl eats every part of its catch, including bones and fur. The great horned owl can feed on larger prey like other owls, snakes, and falcons. These owls also include rodents like mice, rabbits, and rats as part of their diet.

6. Spectacled Owl

Spectacled Owl
Photo: DickDaniels

You’ll find this nocturnal owl mainly in tropical American forests. It takes residence in humid evergreen forests in Central America, South America, and Southern Mexico. 

This owl has white markings around its eyes, giving it a spectacle-like look, which is how it earned its name. 

The spectacled owl possesses a dark face, bright yellow eyes with white markings, and bright white throughout its fur. It’s hard to mistake this owl for any other owl species. These carnivorous owls eat practically anything active at night. Their diet includes insects, frogs, lizards, mice, and small mammals. These owls typically nest in unlined tree cavities. The young leave the nest at around 5 to 6 weeks for tree branches.  

7. Eurasian Eagle Owl

Eurasian Eagle Owl
Photo by Harm Weustink on Unsplash

The Eurasian eagle-owl is a large owl with bright orange eyes and two tufts of feathers on its head. It has a body length of about 2 to 2.5 feet and a wingspan of 5 to 6 feet. You can find these true owls throughout Asia and Europe, occupying areas like mountains, forests, and even deserts. 

The Eurasian eagle owl will nest in areas like cave entrances. They are great predators and feed on a wide range of animals. Some of the animals the Eurasian eagle owl takes as prey include snakes, insects, woodpeckers, and even larger prey like foxes. 

8. Tawny Owl

Tawny Owl
Photo by Andy Chilton on Unsplash

The tawny owl is a chunky owl with a rounded head and body, dark cute eyes, and a brown or gray body. You’ll mainly find this owl in Central Asia, Europe, and North Africa. These owls are territorial and will do anything to protect their nest. 

These owls typically reside in woodlands in these regions. Tawny owls are mainly active at night but also sometimes during the day. These owls hunt for prey, including fish, frogs, earthworms, rabbits, and moles, amongst others. 

9. Southern White-Faced Owl

Southern White-Faced Owl
Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay

The southern white-faced owl is native to the southern half of Africa and is a relatively little owl compared to the large breeds. The southern white-faced owl is usually around 8.7 to 11 inches in length. 

You can quickly identify this owl by its dominant white facial disk. Its border of black plumage also contributes to this owl’s beauty. One of the prominent features that give this owl a cute look is its face. It has feathers that hang over its beak, giving it a mustache-like look. This owl feeds on spiders, scorpions, reptiles, small birds, and small mammals. 

10. Northern Pygmy Owl

Northern Pygmy Owl
Image by Erik Karits from Pixabay

The Northern pygmy owl is one of the cutest owls. These owls are only about 6.5 inches tall, falling under the tiny or little owl category. The northern pygmy owl is not only small but also fluffy and round. 

You can find this owl mainly in western North America. As it resides in western forests, this owl flies fast and low from tree to tree during the day. These cute owls feed on large insects like grasshoppers, beetles, and crickets when the weather is warm. These owls have a diet that includes insects, rodents, and lizards. 

11. Great Gray Owl

Photo Kameron Perensovich (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The great gray owl, also Strix nebulosa, is one of the tallest owls. The owls have body lengths of up to 27 inches. The great gray owl has a wingspan of over 4 feet and a body weight of 2 pounds or more. Its feathers add to its appearance to make it appear even larger. 

These owls inhabit parts of northern Europe, Asia, Canada, Alaska, and the northwestern United States. Great gray owls have large facial disks with wide gray stripes around their eyes. Their bodies are typically in a silvery gray color patterned with brown, gray, and white streaking. These owls generally fly low and hunt during the nighttime. 

12. Long Eared Owl

Long Eared Owl
Photo by Pete Nuij on Unsplash

As the name suggests, a long eared owl has long ear tufts on top of its head. Long eared owls are medium-sized owls that usually appear long and thin. They predominantly reside in North America. You can identify these owls with their buff-brown bodies and dark brown streaks around their bodies. Long eared owls have bodies that help them camouflage themselves. These birds are nocturnal, and they make long, low hoots. 

7 Interesting Owl Facts

As we’ve established, owls come in various shapes and sizes. Like other birds, you can find them in many parts of the world. For instance, some might be native to countries like Canada and Mexico, while others are endemic to whole continents like Asia. If these birds intrigue you, you’ll be interested in exploring some of these owl facts.

Related: for more reading on the fascinating world of birds, check out our compilation of the best bird quotes from famous and not-so-famous bird appreciators. We've also got 22 more fascinating bird facts a click away.

#1: According to the Owl Research Institute, about 250 owl species exist globally. These various species of birds occupy all the continents except Antarctica, in its frozen state. As a result, one breed of owl can be prevalent in one location and scarce in another. Also, you’ll find various distinct-looking owls, including beautiful owls. 

#2: Similar to other birds like eagles and hawks, people know owls for their hunting abilities. In this light, these big birds fly across areas looking for prey to hunt, kill and eat. Due to this behavior, owls are beneficial to farmers because they serve as a form of pest control for rodents. Depending on the breed, an owl will consume animals from small mammals to insects, reptiles, and snakes. 

#3: Owls belong to the order Strigiformes. This order is divided into two families called Tytonidae and Strigidae. Tytonidae consists of barn owls with heart-shaped faces, while Strigidae consists of typical or true owls with round faces. 

#4: Owls have excellent night vision and are far-sighted. As a result, they can locate prey from yards away. Since they’re far-sighted, objects up-close are blurry to them. This makes them rely on hair-like feathers on their feet and beaks to feel prey that becomes food. 

#5: You might be able to sneak up on other animals or creatures, but not owls. An owl’s eyes operate differently compared to many other birds. This distinctive bird can’t move its eyes. This is because its eyes are shaped like tubes, and bones hold these eyes rigidly in place. Instead, an owl’s adaptation technique is the ability to turn its neck 135 degrees in each direction. This gives these birds 270 degrees of total movement. 

#6: An owl is a unique bird because its flight is silent. When owls fly, it's impossible to hear the movement. They have special feathers that reduce turbulence into small currents as they fly. An owl’s feathers are soft, thereby allowing air to pass through easily. 

#7: Most owls are nocturnal - primarily moving around forests and other areas at night. However, depending on the species, they can be out during the day or night. 

Conclusion

Owls are some of the most distinctive birds in our world. If you initially thought all owls look the same, you now know that many different owl breeds populate different parts of the world. 

Owls have unique physical features that make them appear both beautiful and spooky and are a source of fascination for many. Take a moment to stop and appreciate the owl and everything nature has to offer us. 

Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.

Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.

Photo by Pete Nuij on Unsplash
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