Essay

Discover 10 Types of Owls in Alabama (From Most Common to Rarest)

Of the approximately 220 extant owl species worldwide, only ten have been identified in Alabama. Continue reading to see the entire list of owls in Alabama and see how rare they are right now, as reported by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR).

1. Barred Owl (Strix varia) Status in Alabama:
Lowest Conservation Concern

In Alabama, barred owls are a frequent year-round inhabitant. They may survive in a range of various forested environments, including marshes, but they are most suited to old-growth forests. Additionally, they have evolved to survive in smaller wooded sections close to populated areas. According to the ADCNR, barred owls are the owls in the state that are most likely to be heard and observed during the day.

2. Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) Status in Alabama:
Low Conservation Concern

In Alabama, eastern screech owls are a frequent year-round resident. They live on lakeshores as well as in forests and several other forested areas. As long as there are suitable nesting trees available, they may also adapt well to suburban and even urban areas!

3. Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) Status in Alabama:
Moderate Conservation Concern

One of the most prevalent owl species in North America is the great horned owl. They are the biggest resident owls in Alabama and are quite numerous year-round inhabitants. They use a wide range of habitats, but they like open regions for hunting and roosting in addition to wooded areas for breeding. They favour the steep canyon cliffs or earth-walled gulches in the west of Alabama, but are most frequently seen in the state’s lush forests in the east and north.

4. Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
Status in Alabama: Moderate Conservation Concern

Barn owls can be found all around the United States, including Alabama, where they live all year round. But according to the ADCNR, they are now uncommon to rare in all 67 counties. Although they may adapt to a wide range of different habitats, they are most abundant in agricultural grounds and other open places.

5. Northern Saw-Whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)
Status in Alabama: Moderate Conservation Concern

The migratory northern saw-whet owl spends the winter in Alabama. According to the ADCNR, they are locally rare in the Mountain area and uncommon in the Tennessee Valley and Inland Coastal Plain regions. In the state, dense evergreen thickets are their favoured environment.

The conservation status of the Short-Eared Owl (Asio flammeus) in Alabama is high.

Alabama is home to the migrating short-eared owls throughout the winter. According to the ADCNR, they are infrequent in the Tennessee Valley and Inland Coastal Plain regions and uncommon along the Gulf Coast. Being a diurnal species, they are more likely to be noticed during the day and like open terrain in all seasons.

7. Long-Eared Owl (Asio otus)
Status in Alabama: Occasional

Throughout Alabama, long-eared owls are a rare autumn and winter migratory species. Their preferred habitats are heavily forested with access to open spaces. They are most frequently observed in conifer woods in Alabama.

8. Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)
Alabama status: Occasionally

It is not typical for migratory birds such as burrowing owls to visit Alabama. During migration and winter, they are occasionally spotted in open areas and along beaches along the Gulf Coast.

9. Flammulated Owl (Psiloscops flammeolus)
Status in Alabama: Accidental

The migratory flocks of feathered owls usually live further west. In Alabama, they are regarded as an incidental species; its most recent sighting was in October 2022.

10. Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)
Status in Alabama: Accidental

Although snowy owls breed in the Arctic tundra, they sporadically make an irruptive winter migratory to the United States. It is extremely uncommon for them to get as far south as Alabama, though. Actually, the state’s latest record of one dates all the way back to 1975!

Highlights of the Types of Owls in Alabama (Most Common to Rarest)

Species Season Status in Alabama
Barred Owl (Strix varia) year-round Lowest Conservation Concern
Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) year-round Low Conservation Concern
Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) year-round Moderate Conservation Concern
Barn Owl (Tyto alba) year-round Moderate Conservation Concern
Northern Saw-Whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) overwinter Moderate Conservation Concern
Short-Eared Owl (Asio flammeus) overwinter High Conservation Concern
Long-Eared Owl (Asio otus) migration/winter Occasional
Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) migration/winter Occasional
Flammulated Owl (Psiloscops flammeolus) migration/winter Accidental (last spotted 2022)
Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) winter (irruptive migration) Accidental (last spotted 1975)