9 Types of Owls in Massachusetts

Types of Owls in Massachusetts
Photo by Erik_Karits on Pixabay

Massachusetts, there are several places to watch different types of owls in Massachusetts, from Cape Cod to Boston and Pittsfield to Plymouth.

The Bay State is the home of nine distinct species. Some only go there in the winter or during the breeding season, while others stay there all year.

Urbanites, suburbanites, and country inhabitants all get to see these magnificent raptors. The Great Gray Owl, the biggest owl in the US, is also the least common.

On the other hand, the Great Horned Owl is a little smaller but far more widespread.

Our blog post will provide different types of owls in Massachusetts. When birdwatching, use your ears to find whatever you’re looking for.

Owls emit distinct chirps, growls, screeches, and hoots. Let’s go!

1. Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl
by USFWS Mountain Prairie is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Great Horned Owl(Bubo, Virginia, us) is first on our list of types of owls in Massachusetts.

The great horned owl has been widely recognized thanks to its depiction in films like the Harry Potter series and its distinctive hoot. 

These enormous types of owls in Massachusetts have a maximum weight of five and a half pounds.

They can take down ferocious prey like ospreys and falcons because they have powerful claws and good flying abilities.

Once they have something in their claws, prying them apart takes 28 pounds of power.

From Mexico to northern Alaska, these types of owls in Massachusetts can be found throughout North America.

It is among the most widespread owls in deserts, mountains, woodlands, and prairies. 

In Massachusetts, the great horned owl is equally at home in urban areas, rural settings, and wilderness.

All of this suggests that your chances of seeing one are good.

As the second-largest owl in the state, it may be found anywhere in Massachusetts, including Massachusetts City, and you won’t have to search very far.

2. Barred Owl

Barred Owl
by James P. Mann is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A barred owl(Strix Varia) is also on our list of types of owls in Massachusetts.

The great horned owl and the barred owl are about the same size, but the barred owl weighs significantly less. 

They have different bars all over their body and are mottled brown and white. The breasts’ bars are vertical and horizontal on the rest of their bodies.

These types of owls in Massachusetts are not loud ones. 

Though they often remain silent, occasionally, you can hear them calling out during the day.

Barred owls prefer dense forests, whether in a swamp or mountain. They are not seen in urban areas or on plains. 

They are widespread throughout the eastern US and as far north as Canada.

The types of owls in Massachusetts range have grown recently, and now the Pacific Northwest is home to their populations. Throughout their entire lives, they stay put.

3. Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl
by Koshyk is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Short-Eared Owl is next on our list of types of owls in Massachusetts. You were correct to assume that these owls have little ear tufts.

Owls have ear tufts that help guide sound to their ears so they can hear prospective predators and engage in hunting. 

The ear tufts of short-eared owls are tiny and resemble small horns.

These types of owls in Massachusetts can be identified by their characteristic brown and white mottling bordered by black bars.

The eyes are golden and have dark black outlines around the cream-colored face.

The fact that they are active during the day makes it even simpler to notice them than their striking appearance would otherwise suggest. 

They even have a distinctive flight pattern similar to a moth, making identification easier.

They don’t love woody places as many owls do. They enjoy grasses and wide areas. They build underground nests.

4. Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owl
by Dave Williss is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Most of the eastern screech owl’s habitat is on the east side of the Rocky Mountains. All year long, you may find them in Massachusetts in every state region.

The eastern screech owl(Megascops asio)  is a skilled concealer.

They seamlessly blend into the bark of the trees, where they like to perch and build their nests thanks to their gray or reddish-brown mottling.

You might not notice them until you glimpse their glowing, bright yellow eyes.

They feature a yellow beak, prominent ear tufts, and a black V between their eyes.

These owls in Massachusetts hunt at night, making it extremely hard to observe them.

Your best option is to keep an ear out for their whiny trill call and keep an eye out.

5. Long-eared Owl

Long-eared Owl
by DarrelBirkett is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The name “long-eared owl” comes from the long ear tufts exhibited by these owls. With hints of buff or orange, the tufts are mostly black. Between their bright eyes are two white lines.

They have brown bodies that are spotted and thin. These nocturnal raptors forage on grasslands or open spaces while nesting in trees.

They frequently make hoots, squeals, and barks that are easy to recognize. They speak loudly.

They can fly extraordinarily long distances, although they typically only migrate at night. 

Researchers have identified birds that migrated from Canada to Mexico in a single year.

During the winter, Massachusetts residents and visitors should watch for this owl. No matter where you are, they are fairly uncommon.

6. Northern Saw-whet Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl
by Wildreturn is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The body of a northern saw-whet owl (Aegolius acadicus) is mottled brown and white and is little, approximately the size of a robin.

They have heart-shaped faces with large golden eyes and a tiny white V-mark between their eyes.

They are challenging to spot, especially at night when they search for their preferred prey—deer mice.

But you can tell they’re nearby if you keep an ear out for their sharp call. 

If you look closely, you might be able to spot them because they build their nests in tree cavities at roughly eye level during the day.

But don’t rouse the birds from their slumber! Don’t look for them in open spaces or urban areas because they only inhabit mature forests. They travel long distances to breed

7. Barn Owl

Barn Owl
by DarrelBirkett is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Barn Owl (Tyto Alba) is next on our list of types of owls in Massachusetts.

Because it prefers to reside in abandoned barns and other structures in rural areas, the barn owl earned its name. 

They also build their nests in tree cavities. They search for prey by soaring over open spaces and listening. They have great hearing, as you can imagine.

A barn owl can be identified by its distinctive face. They have heart-shaped faces of pure white, with big, black eyes. Their back and wings are speckled, gray, golden, or cinnamon. 

They appear all-white from below when flying because their chest and the undersides of their wings are white. In contrast to the great horned owl, they lack ear tufts.

8. Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl
by AcrylicArtist is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The snowy owl(Bubo scandiacus) is a beautiful bird. The eyes of the males are dazzling, cat-like yellow, and mostly white.

Females and young birds have markings that are dark brown or black. As they age, the males get paler.

On the long summer days, snowy owls hunt for mammals like lemmings and ptarmigans in the Arctic Circle, where they reside.

You may typically find them sitting on the ground near their hunting grounds. 

They will also perch on fences, hay bales, power or telephone poles, and abandoned buildings.

They examine the tundra or fields where they prey by flying low to the ground.

These owls frequently stop by Massachusetts during the winter. They consume lemmings, mice, hares, and seabirds.

9. Great Gray Owl

Great Gray Owl
by Wildreturn is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This is the last on our list of types of owls in Massachusetts. One of the biggest owl species in the US is the great gray owl(Asio flammeu).

They are a little bit lighter but bigger than a Great Horned Owl. 

They are roughly the size of a goose and a crow. They are gray with silver, white, and brown bars or streaks, as the name implies.

They have brown circles around their bright yellow eyes, divided by a white “X.” 

They have a big, spherical skull but no ear tufts. They are difficult to locate because they don’t want to be around people or populated areas.

You normally observe them rather than hear them because they don’t call out often and are quiet as they fly. 

Great Gray owls in Massachusetts are small-mammal hunters residing in coniferous woods.

You can spot this owl in Massachusetts’ eastern region in winter.

They rarely move their residence unless they go further north or to lower elevations for food.


Massachusetts has various owl species, each with unique characteristics and behaviors.

From the elusive barred owl to the small but mighty saw-whet owl, these birds of prey play an important role in the state’s ecosystem.

Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or just someone who appreciates nature, take the time to observe and learn about the types of owls in Massachusetts.

So next time you’re out exploring the woods of Massachusetts, watch these majestic birds and listen for their haunting calls.

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