Almost half of the 20 species of owls in North America may be found in Indiana. Throughout the year, large populations of several of these owls can be observed. If you’re lucky enough to spot others, you’ll need to know when and where to look. Seeing one of these amazing raptors is always a delight and frequently even a surprise, regardless of their residency status in the state. These eight Indiana owl species are arranged from rarest to most common below, so make sure you have your binoculars ready to spot them. For some of these winter guests, this may be an opportunity of a lifetime!
1. Snowy Owl
Even though they travel to Indiana from November to April, you may have trouble seeing them against the stark winter landscape. The name “snowy” owls (Bubo scandiacus) comes from their appearance like snow. This only applies to men, though. All over their bodies, females have patches of dark brown pigment. The snowy owl’s round, bright yellow eyes may be able to identify it if its hue alone isn’t enough. The vast grasslands and lakeshores of northern Indiana are the most likely places to spot snowy owls. Due to the longer daylight hours in these areas, snowy owls can hunt at any time of day in these settings, which are similar to their original hunting grounds in the tundra.
2. Long-Eared Owl
The feather tufts on the long-eared owl’s (Asio otus) head give it its name. The owl’s vivid orangey-yellow, rounded eyes highlight the “alert” expression these tufts impart. Their brown and tan coloring provide great camouflage, making it difficult for both prey and enthusiastic bird watchers to discover them, even though they appear to be easy to spot.
If you know where to look, you may be in a better position to spot this species. Compared to others, they are not as alone. Typically, they roost throughout the winter with other members of their species.These owl groups are usually found in pine trees close to pastureland, which is where their nightly hunting takes place. Look for the owls huddled together for protection and warmth close to the tree’s trunk. Look for a bird that resembles a crow with large “ears” and a brownish face. The best months to see them are October through April.
3. Barn Owl
Another species that is easily recognized is the barn owl (Tyto alba), which has a large, flat face and dark eyes. Their face is frequently referred to as “heart-shaped,” which gives this vicious predator a charming or romantic quality. Despite being year-round residents of Indiana and practically all of the continental United States, this species is quite elusive. They are only engaged in activity at night. They are also incredibly successful predators, using just sound to catch food in complete darkness. Try searching for these creatures in open areas like farmlands or prairies if you’re feeling very fortunate. Of course, when they’re not out hunting, you might also see them roosting in deserted structures like barns.
4. Northern Saw-Whet Owl
The northern saw-whet owl (Aegolius acadicus), a diminutive but powerful owl, spends the entire year in the northern regions of Indiana. This predatory bird may be visible in old-growth coniferous woods throughout the winter, when it nests in tree cavities. From October to April, keep a sharp eye out for this little raptor! Even though their small size gives the impression that they are more predator than prey, these little birds have the ability to consume songbirds and even other small owls during hard times. They are primarily nocturnal and small, around the size of robins, so you’ll need to be an expert birder to see them at night. Look for little rodents or songbirds congregating near water or elsewhere in the forest if you’re seeking.
5. Barred Owl
The round, flat faces of barred owls (Strix varia) are distinguished by the dark brown bars that run the length of their lighter-colored bodies. They have dark eyes instead of brilliant yellow or orange ones, just like barn owls. Bird observers may easily identify these birds by their eyes and the design on their feathers. They are primarily active at night or around dusk and dawn, just like the majority of other owls on this list. It is possible to see barred owls all year round in Indiana. Despite their excellent concealment, you may be able to spot one napping during the day in a coniferous forest among the pine, cedar, or spruce. Additionally, they frequently hunt at dusk in marshy environments.
6. Eastern Screech Owl
Being a permanent resident, this small species of owl can be found in Indiana during the entire year. But, when the leaves have dropped from the trees in September through January, that’s when you should be searching for it. The nesting chambers of oaks and pines are preferred by the eastern screech owl (Megascops asio). They typically have a reddish-gray speckling. Their colors indicate location rather than sex or age. They mostly hunt at night. One needs to have a sharp eye to detect them throughout the day. Examine abandoned nests and tree cavities.
7. Short-Eared Owl
The northern regions of Indiana are home to the short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) throughout the year. In the winter, you may come across this species in other parts of the state and possibly the nation. November through March is the optimum time of year to search for this bird. Known as “crepuscular,” these open-field hunters are most active between twilight and dawn. The majority of owls fit into this group. Seeking voles or other tiny rodents, they soar at a low altitude over prairies and other open spaces. Because they are a sort of ground-nesting bird, you will need to keep your head down in order to see this lovely bird with a pale face.
8. Great Horned Owl
If you are looking for this owl, there’s a good chance you will eventually see it. Indiana is home to the great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) all year round. They are among the most frequently encountered and easily identified species of owl. Winter, though, may be the greatest season to see them. September through May are the months when they are most active. The owl’s predatory behavior is reflected in its bright yellow eyes and the “horns” above its eyes. This versatile raptor hunts in fields, wetlands, and forest areas. This owl prefers to eat rodents and rabbits, but it will also kill other birds, such as crows, and even other owls, like the barred owl.