11 Types of Owls in Michigan (With Pictures)

Types of Owls in Michigan
Photo by Mike Hensley on Unsplash

Across the globe, there are over 200 species of owl, ranging in size and living in various habitats.

But when it comes to the types of owls in Michigan, which owls inhabit this area? 

Michigan has varied terrain and climate; the western side experiences colder winter temperatures than the eastern side.

As a result, different types of climates accommodate different animals. Owls are no exception. 

Michigan has an incredibly varied array of owls that inhabit its forests, grasslands, wetlands, and other areas throughout the state.

In our article, we will discuss the different types of owls in Michigan and their characteristics and habitats – giving readers an insight into the different avian life features within Michigan’s borders.

1. Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl
by brendan.lally….away is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This is the first on our list of types of owls in Michigan. The Great Horned Owl is one of Michigan’s most majestic owls.

These beautiful birds stand tall, with a wingspan of up to five feet and two-foot body length.

They are considered the most powerful owl species in Michigan; thanks to their strong talons and sharp hooked beak, they have earned the nickname “tiger of the skies.” 

Most of those living in Michigan inhabit woodlands and open areas such as fields, meadows, and wetlands; this makes it easier for them to access their rodent prey.

Though they have a more limited range than other species, they can be found across Michigan during the breeding season, eating everything from grouse to muskrats.

Great Horned Owls are mostly nocturnal, yet some activity can happen around dawn or dusk.

During courtship season, these types of owls in Michigan will make deep hoots which often carry for miles making them well known throughout their scenery; this also helps prospective mates find each other when locating potential nesting sites. 

The most prominent feature of these iconic owls is their long ear tufts hence why they were nicknamed ‘horns’ due to their distinctive look.

When threatened or excited, adult and juvenile great-horned owls will spread these wide tufts out to appear larger, promising an intimidating presence when sighted.

2. Barn Owl

Barn Owl
by minicooper93402 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The barn owl is a common species of owl found throughout Michigan. It is characterized by its telltale screech and distinct black markings around its eyes and heart-shaped face. 

The barn owl has a wide wingspan that helps it to fly more quickly than other owls in its family, making it an effective predator of small mammals.

Its light tan feathers provide excellent camouflage against tree bark, allowing it to blend into the background while hunting at night. 

Barn owls feed mostly on rodents, relying heavily on their sharp hearing to find prey in dark, overgrown areas or grasslands.

They can hear the slightest fluctuations in sound and will swoop down to catch mice, voles, moles, shrews, squirrels, and other small mammals with great accuracy and speed, sometimes catching multiple animals on one hunt! 

Additionally, barn owls have been known to consume birds such as quail or songbirds if their normal prey is unavailable due to cold temperatures or depleted populations.

Barn owls benefit farmers and gardeners as they help keep rodent populations under control without using chemical pesticides or traps; they also make excellent neighbors with their loud barking voices providing musical entertainment day and night!

3. Long-eared Owl

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

The Long-Eared Owl is also on our list of types of owls in Michigan and other parts of North America.

They are small- to medium-sized owls with mottled gray and brown plumage, which help provide camouflage when roosting amongst twigs and foliage. 

Long-Eared Owls have prominent ear tufts, yellow eyes, and a facial disk relatively smaller than other owls. They are active at night and feed mainly on small mammals such as voles and mice. 

During the mating season, males may call with their hoots at dawn and dusk, while female calls are muffled.

Both sexes collect materials such as grasses and feathers to build an open nest in the fork of trees or in abandoned crow nests or hawk nest platforms.

The number of eggs laid usually ranges from three to five but can reach up to twelve, depending on food availability.

The offspring hatch by the female alone after 24–29 days of incubation. 

Both parents share the responsibility to care for the young until they fledge about two months after hatching, making them almost fully independent soon afterward.

Long-Eared Owls are commonly found in coniferous forests, woodlands, shrubland habitats, marshes, farmland areas, and parklands throughout Michigan throughout the year, providing an important ecological balance by controlling rodent populations in populated areas and wilderness alike all across this great state!

4. Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl
by James St. John is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Short-Eared Owl is a type of owl found in Michigan.

This owl prefers open grasslands, fields, and marshes, as these habitats offer plenty of food and ideal nesting sites. 

A low yet wide-winged bird, the Short-Eared Owl is one of the most distinctive owl species due to its yellow eyes, small stature, rounded head, and short ear tufts.

One of their adaptations for hunting at dusk or dawn is their facial disc which helps them to focus sound on hearing prey more clearly. 

In Michigan, Short-Eared Owls tend to winter during October and November in southern parts of the state.

During this season, they feed primarily on meadow voles abundant in open grasslands. 

Additionally, during late April and early May, it’s common to find owlets born from successful breeding pairs on muskrat houses or spots surrounded by tall vegetation.

These types of owls in Michigan also have an impressive courtship display involving lots of “sky dipping,” hovering above the ground while making loud calls.

5. Northern Saw-whet Owl

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

The northern saw-whet owl is a small, adorable bird found in various parts of Michigan.

These types of owls in Michigan have gray and white facial markings on the side of their head, which gives them a unique look amongst other owls.

The Northern Saw-Whet Owl is relatively small compared to other owls and can fit in the palm of your hand when fully grown.

They are mostly active during nighttime but can also be seen during sunrise or sunset. 

Northern Saw-Whet Owls are very territorial and will fiercely fight to protect their territory if they feel it is threatened by another owl encroaching on its space.

During mating season, they can become very loud and heard from long distances away due to their whistle-like sound. 

They generally create their nests in natural tree hollows or abandoned old bird’s nests but can also adapt to human-made nesting boxes if necessary.

In Michigan, these owls feed on small rodents such as mice, voles, shrews, and pocket gophers but occasionally eat insects for additional nutrition.

6. Barred Owl

Barred Owl
by Andy Morffew is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Barred Owl is next on our list of types of owls in Michigan.

These owls are medium-sized and can grow up to 17 inches long with a wingspan of 39 inches.

They have distinct brown and white streaked feathers, giving them the popular nickname “eight-hooter” due to their eight stripes. 

These owls are typically found in populated areas such as cities and suburbs but can also be seen in natural habitats such as woodlands, wetlands, and swamps.

These Barred Owls often nest in old woodpecker holes or tree cavities and feed on small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and some fruit. 

During the springtime, when food sources become scarce, these owls come out at night to hunt for food and make their distinctive “who-cooks-for-you?” call, which is their mating call.

The Barred Owls are a beloved species of owl in Michigan because of their unique call that many people recognize when they hear it in the wild.

7. Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owl
by Me in ME is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Eastern Screech Owl is a small, common species of owl found in the United States, especially throughout Michigan.

These owls are diurnal, which means they hunt during the daytime, roosting and nesting in hollow trees or man-made birdhouses at night.

They commonly live within deciduous and mixed forest ecosystems in urban and rural areas. 

The Eastern Screech Owl features gray or red feathers depending on their location and impressive eyes that give them exceptional vision at night.

They have a unique hooting call with a tremulous trill near the end, described as ‘scry-scr-o-o.’ 

In Michigan specifically, the Eastern Screech Owl can be found in most of its 84 counties, including popular cities such as Detroit and Ann Arbor.

A study conducted by Avian Conservation & Ecology reported that these types of owls in Michigan are one of the most frequently encountered species among Nocturnal Forest Birds (NFBs) due to their population size and wide habitat use throughout Michigan forest landscapes. 

Because of this high population density, these owls can often be seen introduced from dusk to dawn on nights with no moonlight or cloudy skies at eye level and occasionally making quite a fuss when disturbed by people walking too close to their roosting tree holes!

8. Boreal Owl

Boreal Owl
by DenaliNPS is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Boreal Owls are types of owls in Michigan. Boreal Owls have gray-brown Plumage and bright yellow eyes, with their belly appearing much lighter than their back.

They usually measure between 6 and 8 inches long and have an average wingspan range of 18 to 28 inches. 

At night they can be heard vocalizing with a series of hoots that build in pitch before seeming to laugh at the end.

These types of owls in Michigan prefer cold and boreal environments such as coniferous forests.

They are found in northern Canada, Alaska, Scandinavia, eastern Europe, parts of Asia, and most of North America up to the midwestern United States. 

They typically nest among broken tree limbs near the tops of large conifers, where predators or humans cannot easily spot their young because the snow will often cover them for most of the year.

During the mating season from late March to April, female Boreal Owls will lay between two and five eggs which incubate for approximately 28 days before hatching into fluff balls barely larger than human palms! 

They feed mainly on small mammals such as rodents and rabbits making them important members of naturally balancing ecosystems during timber harvesting operations.

The preservation of old-growth forests is paramount for these birds as deforestation shreds their habitat when companies clear-cut whole swathes of the forest at once, leaving no suitable nesting sites or prey left behind.

9. Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl
by Harlequeen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Snowy Owl is a large white owl native to the Arctic but has been found in Michigan in recent years.

It is one of the only types of owls in Michigan that breeds during the summer and migrates south during winter. 

Snowy Owls typically inhabit barren and open habitats such as beaches, tundra, or grasslands.

During winter, they may sometimes be observed inland, hunting along riverbanks and fields near human habitation. 

Snowy Owls are most easily identified by their bright white feathers and orange-yellow eyes.

They tend to stick out due to their large bulk compared to other owl species in Michigan.

Adults will weigh 4–5 lbs., with a wingspan reaching four feet wide. The males are almost pure white, while females may exhibit brown spots on their heads and wings. 

Snowy Owls are fierce carnivores, preying mainly on small rodents such as voles, lemmings, and rabbits, though occasionally fish or sea birds if the opportunity presents itself.

They hunt during the late afternoon or at dusk, often perching atop trees or poles for long periods before plunging onto unsuspecting prey below them with incredible speed.

10. Great Gray Owl

Great Gray Owl
by Opt1mus76 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Great Gray Owl is a majestic species of owl native to Michigan.

This large bird has a wingspan of up to five feet, and its all-gray feathers create an ancient and formidable appearance.

Its face is highlighted by deep yellow or sometimes orange eyes, providing a striking contrast that has intrigued birdwatchers for years. 

Great Gray Owls can also be identified due to their distinctively loud hoot call that pierces the night air so loud that some locals have nicknamed them “the wolf of the forest.”

In Michigan, the Great Gray Owl is one of the few nocturnal species known to inhabit the area and can often be found nesting in dense coniferous forests during the summer months. 

During winter, they are more likely to populate open areas with patches of bare trees and fields due to the abundance of small rodents they hunt at night.

It’s not uncommon for these types of owls in Michigan to fly up into nearby higher elevations as well; this behavior helps them detect potential prey better during hunting trips in search of food. 

To keep itself warm during cold weather, it fluffs its feathers into an inch-thick downy layer that provides enough insulation for even the most bitter blizzards.

Even though not widely seen due to their shy nature, these types of owls in Michigan make up much of Michigan wildlife. If you’re lucky, you, too, might catch a glimpse!

11. Northern Hawk Owl

Northern Hawk Owl
by ahisgett is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This is the last on our list of types of owls in Michigan. Easily identified by its distinct grayish-brown feathers, white streaky underbelly, and intense yellow eyes, this majestic bird can be seen flying around Michigan’s woods and meadows during mating season. 

The northern hawk owl is a smaller species of owl than some of the larger breeds found in Michigan.

At only 16 inches tall, these birds can weigh less than half a pound thanks to their exceptionally light bones.

During winter, Northern Hawk-Owls travel south into northern states like Wisconsin and Minnesota to find food as rodents become scarce in Michigan’s colder climates.

While sighted year-round in some areas due to climate change, Northern Hawk-Owls are best observed during the warmer spring months of March, April, and May!

Half an hour before sunset or sunrise offers optimum viewing conditions since it coincides with their active hunting periods.

Active hunters of small mammals and certain insects often search for prey viewable from ground level, or mid-flight should an interesting sound capture their attention! 

With keen hearing and excellent night vision capabilities, these hunters are more adept than many other owls at capturing prey even some distance away.

Look out for them while exploring your favorite outdoor pastimes in Michigan.

You may be lucky enough to observe one swooping between the trees!


There are several types of owls in Michigan. The most common include the Great Horned Owl, the Barred Owl, the Eastern Screech-Owl, the Saw-Whet Owl, and others listed above on our blog. 

Owls can also be seen in many urban areas within Michigan as well.

Understanding owls helps us better understand our environment and how each species is unique and important to its ecosystem.

We must continue to provide safe habitats for these majestic types of owls in Michigan so that future generations of people and owls can coexist.

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