Sounds Of 8 OWLS In Florida (Guide With Photos & Calls)
Did you recently hear an owl sound in Florida, and want to know what species it was?
Identifying owl calls in the Sunshine State is not as easy as it might seem, since there are many owls that regularly occur in Florida.
To help you identify the owl you heard, we’ll cover the most common owl sounds of Florida in this article.
What sounds do Florida owls make?
Below we’ve uploaded the sounds of the 8 types of owls found in Florida:
- Great Horned Owl
- Barn Owl
- Burrowing Owl
- Short-eared Owl
- Eastern Screech-Owl
- Barred Owl
- Northern Saw-whet Owl
- Snowy Owl
By learning to recognize their call, you can identify these owls even if it’s hard to see them in the dark of night. This is extremely helpful if you want to identify Florida owls.
And while most of these owls are regular birds in Florida, the last two species on the list are vagrants that only rarely occur in the state.
Now let’s dive in and listen to the calls and sounds of these owls:
Great Horned Owl
Scientific name: Bubo virginianus
Great Horned Owl call:
(Recording source: Christopher McPherson, XC691461, www.xeno-canto.org/691461)
The sound recording above is of the territorial song of a Great Horned Owl, which can be heard from both males and females.
With a wingspan up to 4 feet, the Great Horned Owl is the largest owl species breeding in Florida.
It is a large brown-colored bird with two ear tufts (also called horns) and big yellow eyes. In Florida, this owl starts its nesting very early in the year, laying its eggs in January or February.
This owl is almost entirely nocturnal, and can hunt in complete darkness by relying on its keen sense of hearing.
The Great Horned Owl doesn’t build its own nest, but instead occupies the nests of other large birds, such as herons or raptors.
It is found year-round throughout Florida, and can be found in a wide variety of habitats in Florida, from woodlands to urban areas.
This owl is a fierce hunter, catching birds up to the size of ducks, and mammals up to the size of squirrels, rabbits, and even young foxes.
Scientific name: Tyto alba
Barn Owl sound:
(Recording source: Jayrson De Oliveira, XC619814, www.xeno-canto.org/619814)
The sound recording above is of the territorial song of an American Barn Owl. It is a screeching sound that is hard to miss.
Somewhat softer and less intense-looking than the Great Horned Owl, Barn Owls are characterized by their white coat of feathers, and their “friendlier” appearance.
Armed with exceptional night vision, Barn Owls are strictly nocturnal raptors and therefore hard to spot. However, they can be readily identified by their characteristic screeching calls.
And if you do spot one flying overhead by the light of the moon, you may be able to see the glow of their white underside.
These white birds are present in Florida all year round, and favor open areas and farmland as their hunting grounds.
Scientific name: Athene cunicularia
Burrowing Owl sound:
(Recording source: David Ricardo Rodriquez-Villamil, XC524489, www.xeno-canto.org/524489)
The sound recording above is of the territorial song of a Burrowing Owl.
The Burrowing Owl is a scarce resident of open areas in Florida. It digs its own burrows, but also often takes over burrows from prairie dogs or ground squirrels.
This owl is active both day and night, and hunts insects and small rodents in open areas. Due to their small size, these owls can be hard to spot in the expanse of open prairies.
They are most often observed perching on a small mound, from where they can scan their surroundings in search of food.
Scientific name: Asio flammeus
Short-eared Owl call:
(Recording source: Lars Edenius, XC718743, www.xeno-canto.org/718743)
The sound recording above is of the territorial song of a Short-eared Owl.
The Short-eared Owl is a highly migratory owl species, and while it doesn’t breed in Florida, it is regularly observed in the state outside of the breeding season.
Short-eared Owls are more often observed hunting in daylight than other owls species.
Together with their hunting tactic of flying low over the ground in open areas, this makes these owls relatively easy to spot.
You can encounter these owls in Florida in any kind of open landscapes, including farmland, airports, and fallow land.
Scientific name: Megascops kennicottii
Eastern Screech Owl sound:
(Recording source: Wisconagus, XC690687, www.xeno-canto.org/690687)
The sound recording above is of the territorial song of an Eastern Screech-Owl.
Originally birds of open woodlands, Eastern Screech-Owls have adapted very well to urban habitats, and are regularly found in parks, large gardens, and golf courses.
They breed in tree cavities, and are best identified by their characteristic series of accelerating hoots.
These owls are common birds in Florida and can be seen in the state all year round.
They have a very varied diet, which includes any type of small animal ranging from worms to insects and rodents.
Eastern Screech-Owls readily accept artificial nesting cavities, which means you can attract them to your backyard by setting up nest boxes.
Scientific name: Strix varia
Barred Owl sound:
(Recording source: Jim Berry, XC713081, www.xeno-canto.org/713081)
The sound recording above is of the territorial song of a Barred Owl.
The Barred Owl was originally a bird of eastern North America, but it steadily expanded its range westwards over the past century.
These owls are found throughout Florida wherever there are suitable habitats, and are residents that defend their territory all year round.
Similar to other owls, the Barred Owl is easiest to find by listening for its characteristic hooting call.
Their preferred habitat is mature forest and forests bordering swamps. They readily accept nest boxes that are set up in old trees.
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Scientific name: Aegolius acadicus
Northern Saw-whet Owl call:
(Recording source: Lance A. M. Benner, XC546885, www.xeno-canto.org/546885)
The sound recording above is of the territorial song of a Northern Saw-whet Owl.
This is another small owl species that’s hardly larger than a pint. These owls are hard to see, but they are easy to detect if you listen for their characteristic too-too-too call at night.
Northern Saw-whet Owls are very rare in Florida, but sometimes show up in the northern parts of the state during winter.
In some years these birds erupt south during winter, and can be seen far south of their normal range.
They nest in tree cavities, but also readily accept man made nest boxes. So if you have a large garden with mature trees, it’s worth putting up a nest box well before the nesting season.
Scientific name: Bubo scandiacus
Snowy Owl call:
(Recording source: Tero Linjama, XC343144, www.xeno-canto.org/343144)
The sound recording above is of the territorial song of a Snowy Owl.
The Snowy Owl is the largest owl species in North America, and weighs more than the Great Horned Owl.
Snowy Owls are very rare winter visitors in Florida, where they can be seen in wide open areas, such as shorelines and grassland.
These owls breed in the high arctic well north of the arctic circle, where they hunt ptarmigans and lemmings.
Snowy Owls are easily recognizable by their large size, rounded head white coloration with varying amounts of black markings.
These big birds favor open ground, and can often be observed perching on the ground. In cultivated landscapes they also perch on hay bales, fence posts and telephone poles.
Snowy Owls follow the population changes of small rodents, and are most common in winters with high rodent populations.
And there we have the most common owl sounds that can be heard in Florida!
I think you’ll find that, with a little practice, identifying owls by their sounds is much easier than identifying them by sight.
Of course this doesn’t apply when owls are silent, which can be the case with winter visitors such as Snowy Owls or Northern Saw-whet Owls.
If you enjoyed this article, check out our guide to the raptors of Florida.