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Owl Species

Owl Species

A Look at the Different Owl Species

The owl is an amazing creature, one that many people do not understand, but also a creature with approximately 220 to 225 different owl species, which are divided into the “typical owl” family or Strigidae and the “barn owl” or Tytonidae. 

Owls are found all over the world but in tropical regions that are both temperate and subarctic.  In fact, many owls are found on the world’s oceanic islands.  As you will discover, owls come in a variety of sizes and feature different characteristics based on actual species.

A white faced scops owl in a tree staring

Although it would be difficult to mention all the various species in this one article, we wanted to provide information on some.  Keep in mind that some species such as the Elf Owl is small, measuring only 5.3 inches long.  This particular species is found in the western parts of Mexico and southwestern regions of the United States. 

On the other end of the spectrum is the largest species, which is called the Gray Owl.  This species has been recorded as growing to 30 inches long with a wingspread as much 60 inches.  The Gray Owl lives in Alaska, as well as deep wooded areas of Canada.

All owls have a round head, extremely large eyes, and a short, hooked bill.  While some do fly and hunt during the day, most spend time at night looking for food, usually mice, other birds, and small rabbits, squirrels, and other animals.  Interestingly, some owl species have also been known to hunt for fish in shallow waters, as well as insects. 

Because of the wing design, this particular bird has a huge advantage over other birds when hunting.  The dull color of the wings, along with serrated edges found on the leading remiges is what makes it possible for the owl to fly in almost complete silence.

Owls have amazing night vision, which makes hunting easy but they also rely heavily on their keen sense of hearing more.  In fact, an owl can find food in pitch black simply by noise produced by animals scurrying through the forest and woods. 

Owl looking at the camera

The one thing that owl species are notorious for is the large head that faces forward but has the ability of turning the head 135 degrees.

Although this bird has binocular vision, with the eyes being fixed within the socket, the entire head must move for the owl to see.  By turning its head to this degree, owl species have a total 270-degree field of view with much greater depth perception. 

Some of the other owl species that we wanted to mention are listed below but to learn about all the wonderful species, it would be worth your time to conduct online research.

  • Pygmy Owls – This species grows just slightly larger than the Elf Owl, usually to around six inches in length
  • Eagle Owl – This is considered one of the larger species, reaching lengths around 25 to 27 inches long
  • Blakiston’s Fish Owl – Like the Gray and Eagle Owl, this is one of the larger species, sometimes reaching up to 28 inches in length with a wingspan around 6.6 feet

All species of owls, alive and extinct, fall within distinct families or groups, as indicated by the examples below:

  • Aegolius – These include four species of the saw-whet owls
  • Asio – These eared owls have up to seven species
  • Gymnoglaux – In this family are the Cuban Screech Owl and Bare Legged Owl
  • Mimizuku – This includes the Mindanao Eagle Owl and Giant Scops Owl
  • Ninox – This Australasian family includes 20 different owl species
  • Ptilopsis – For this, only two species of the white faced owl are found
  • Ornimegalonyx – These owls are from the Caribbean giant owl and one to two species, which includes those living, as well as those from prehistoric times

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