14 Types of Owls in Colorado (From Rarest to Most Common)

Colorado is a large state that occupies 104,094 square miles in the Mountain West region. Many different kinds of creatures inhabit it, residing in a variety of settings. The state is home to about 400 different species of birds, fourteen of which are owls. Some of them, nevertheless, are limited to a small number of places, therefore not all of them are frequent. Discover Colorado’s owls here, ranging from the rarest to the most frequent, by continuing to read!

1. Snowy Owl

The recognizable snowy owl, which is the first owl on the list, may be the rarest in Colorado. Snowy owls are not common in Colorado; instead, they are drawn to the state by winter food shortages in their typical habitats further north. Usually white, snowy owls have a few tiny black or brown spots on them. Their wingspan can reach up to 51 inches, making them huge birds.

2. Barred Owl

The next owl is the barred owl, which is also among the rarest in the state. Colorado is home to a small number of barred owls, and those that do exist are restricted to the extreme southeast. They usually inhabit forests and woodlands, especially those near bodies of water. Large owls, barred owls can grow to a length of 16 to 25 inches and a wingspan of up to 49 inches. With horizontal brown bars on their breast and vertical brown bars on their underbelly, barred owls have a brown and white appearance.

3. Spotted Owl

Only the Mexican subspecies of the spotted owl is found in Colorado, making it another extremely rare species of owl. They are a state-designated threatened species that can be found in the Rocky Mountains’ canyons and forests in sporadic distributions. Mexican spotted owls usually have dark eyes and a chestnut brown body with white and brown patches.

4. Burrowing Owl

Burrowing owls are another endangered species in Colorado. They are found in open, treeless parts of the state throughout the summer. They burrow in tunnels made by prairie dogs and ground squirrels, where they make their home. Although burrowing owls are small birds, they have lengthy legs and a barred look of brown and white.

5. Northern Saw-Whet Owl

The northern saw-whet owl, measuring about six to eight inches in length, is one of the smallest species. Their faces are marked with white, giving them a mottled brown appearance. In Colorado, the mountains are home to the majority of northern saw-whet owls. While some birds stay in the state all year round, most migrate southward in the winter, occasionally even to Mexico.

6. Short-Eared Owl

The short-eared owl, which is primarily found in Colorado’s eastern region, is the next species of owl. Typically, they are found around marshes and wet meadows in grasslands. Short-eared owls hunt a variety of small mammals and are most active around dawn and twilight. With paler patches beneath their wings, short-eared owls have a mottled brown appearance and range in length from 13 to 17 inches.

7. Western Screech Owl

The next species is the western screech owl, which is primarily found around the Arkansas River in the state’s southwest. Despite being nocturnal, these owls are frequently heard because of their unique sound, which consists of several brief hoots. With a length of approximately nine inches and a wingspan of up to twenty inches, these birds are quite modest.

8. Northern Pygmy Owl

The northern pygmy owl, at just seven inches long, is one of the tiniest owls in the state. These owls have white patterns on their dark brown coats. They are found in the slopes and mountains, usually in holes made by woodpeckers for their nests. They mostly hunt rodents and small mammals, and they are active all day long.

9. Eastern Screech Owl

The eastern screech owl, which is closely related to the western screech owl, is primarily found in the state’s northwest but has recently been observed as far south as Denver. Although they live in forests and woodlands, eastern screech owls can often be observed in fields and wetlands. Being nocturnal owls, they are not often seen during the day.

10. Boreal Owl

At eight to nine inches in length, the boreal owl is a relatively small bird of prey, though females are larger than males. Their square-shaped face and white facial disc give them a unique appearance. Boreal owls have a white belly and brown patterns on their brown bodies, which are speckled with white on the backs. Throughout the year, they can be seen in Colorado’s central mountains.

11. Long-Eared Owl

The long-eared owl, which usually winters on Colorado’s Western Slope, is a reasonably common owl. But in the winter, they are also visible in other parts of the state. Although they live mostly at night, long-eared owls can be found in mixed and coniferous forests. They are usually light brown with darker markings, and they have characteristic long ear tufts.

12. Flammulated Owl

The flammulated owl, which is roughly six to seven inches long with a rather wide wingspan of fourteen inches, is another small owl found in the state. Though some may seem reddish, these owls are grayish-brown with white markings. In Colorado, flamboyant owls can be found in most parts of the state from April to October. But after that, they take off south to spend the winter in Mexico and Central America.

13. Barn Owl

The well-known barn owl is among the most prevalent owls in the state. Their propensity to build their nests in barns and outbuildings is the reason behind their name. The characteristic heart-shaped face of barn owls helps to set them apart from other species. Typically, their wings have lighter underparts and their body is buff in color.

14. Great Horned Owl

The great horned owl, which is visible year-round in Colorado, is the most frequent owl. They can be found in all states and inhabit a wide range of environments, such as marshes, grasslands, and woodlands. Large owls, the great horned owl can reach a maximum wingspan of five feet. They have a white patch on their throat and are reddish-brown or gray in color. The great horned owl gets its name from the feathery tufts, or “horns,” that grow on top of their heads. Although they are nocturnal owls, occasionally they can be seen at dusk.