10 Owls in Kansas (With Pictures)

10 Owls in Kansas (With Pictures)

Kansas, a state known for its sprawling prairies and lush woodlands, is also a haven for a fascinating and diverse array of owl species. These nocturnal raptors, with their enigmatic presence and haunting calls, add a layer of mystique to the Kansas landscape.

This article delves into the world of owls in Kansas, exploring their habitats, behaviors, and the unique characteristics that make each species special.

From the silent, ghost-like flight of the Barn Owl in the rural farmlands to the eerie screeches of the Eastern Screech Owl in suburban backyards, Kansas offers a rich tapestry of owl encounters. We’ll journey through various habitats – from the dense forests of the eastern regions to the open grasslands and wetlands – where these elusive birds of prey make their home.

Whether you’re an avid birder, a wildlife enthusiast, or simply curious about these fascinating creatures, join us as we uncover the secrets of Kansas’s owls, their role in the ecosystem, and the efforts to conserve their habitats.

1. Eastern Screech-Owl

  • Scientific name: Megascops asio
  • Life span: 8 to 10 years
  • Size: 16 to 25 cm (6.5 to 10 in)
  • Weight: 121 to 244 g (4.25 to 8.5 oz)
  • Wingspan: 46 to 61 cm (18 to 24 in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and common

The Eastern Screech Owl, a master of concealment in eastern North America, comes in two color morphs: gray and reddish-brown. Its diminutive size and tuftless head distinguish it from other owls. Large, bright yellow eyes convey an inquisitive charm, while its haunting, trilling calls echo through woodlands.

A couple of Eastern Screech Owls sitting on a branch

The Eastern Screech Owl, a small yet spirited bird, prefers the safety of tree cavities in both wooded and urban areas of Kansas. They often occupy spaces in close proximity to humans, showcasing their adaptability. Their nests are hidden gems, tucked away in the nooks of trees.

These owls have a varied diet, hunting everything from insects to small rodents and birds. Their hunting tactics are a blend of stealth and surprise, embodying the essence of an urban predator adapting to the changing landscapes of Kansas.

Conservation for the Eastern Screech Owl in Kansas focuses on preserving tree cavities and promoting urban green spaces. They face challenges from habitat loss and pollution. Efforts include educating the public about coexisting with these urban dwellers and the importance of urban biodiversity.

2. Great Horned Owl

  • Scientific name: Bubo virginianus
  • Life span: 25 – 50 years
  • Size: 43 to 64 cm (17 to 25 in)
  • Weight: 1200 to 1600 g (2.64 to 3.52 lbs)
  • Wingspan: 91 to 153 cm (3ft 0in to 5ft 0in)
  • Status: Least Concern

The Great Horned Owl has an extensive geographical range, spanning from the Arctic regions of North America down through Central and South America. This widespread range includes diverse habitats, making the Great Horned Owl a common sight in Kansas.

Physically, this owl is notable for its prominent, ear-like feathered tufts and deep-set yellow eyes. Its plumage is predominantly a mix of mottled gray, brown, and white, offering excellent camouflage against tree bark.

An angry-looking Great Horned Owl

These owls don’t believe in starting from scratch; instead, they claim the abandoned nests of other large birds, or sometimes, they settle in tree cavities, cliffs, and even buildings. Their nesting period starts early, sometimes in the heart of winter, showcasing their resilience.

These nests, often perched high and secluded, offer a sanctuary where they can raise their broods away from prying eyes and potential threats.

From skunks to rabbits, snakes to rodents, and even other birds, their menu reflects their status as fearsome hunters. This varied diet not only speaks of their hunting prowess but also of their critical role in controlling the populations of various species, maintaining the delicate balance of their ecosystems.

The Great Horned Owl, a symbol of wild Kansas, has fared better than many other species, thanks partly to its adaptability. Conservation efforts primarily focus on preserving their natural habitats, including forests and prairies, and mitigating human-wildlife conflicts. Educational programs aim to increase public awareness about these magnificent birds.

3. American Barn Owl

  • Scientific name: Tyto furcata
  • Life span: 10 years
  • Size: 34 to 38 cm (13 to 15 in)
  • Weight: 400 to 600 g (0.88 to 1.3 lbs)
  • Wingspan: 80 to 95 cm cm (31 to 37 in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and common

The American Barn Owl, found throughout the Americas, from Canada to Argentina, is a ghostly apparition in the night sky. Its heart-shaped, white face and golden-brown plumage create a haunting yet captivating visage.

Renowned for its silent flight and distinctive screeches, it haunts farmlands and open areas, preying on small mammals.

The American Barn Owl in flight

The American Barn Owl, a ghostly figure in the night, prefers the quiet solitude of abandoned barns and hollow trees for nesting. These owls are cavity nesters, seeking out secluded, dark places to raise their young. Their nests are often found in rural areas, where old structures provide the perfect sanctuary.

Barn Owls are silent hunters, specializing in catching rodents in the dead of night. Their diet consists mostly of mice and rats, making them natural pest controllers. Their hunting is a silent ballet, a nocturnal symphony played out in the fields and barns of Kansas.

The conservation of the American Barn Owl in Kansas focuses on preserving old barns and other structures they use for nesting. These owls face challenges from modern agriculture and urban development. Conservationists encourage the maintenance of old barns and the creation of nest boxes to support their populations.

4. Barred Owl

  • Scientific name: Strix varia
  • Life span: 8 years
  • Size: 40 to 63 cm (15 to 25 in)
  • Weight: 610 to 1,150 g (1.34 to 2.54 lb)
  • Wingspan: 96 to 125 cm (38 to 49 in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and common

The Barred Owl, native to North America, showcases a charming and distinctive look. Its mottled brown and white plumage is punctuated by horizontal barring on its chest, which inspired its name. Dark, expressive eyes and a round face complete its appealing appearance. These owls are often found near wetlands and dense forests.

A close-up photo of a Barred Owl

Barred Owls, with their distinctive hooting, favour the dense woodlands of Kansas for nesting. They often choose large tree cavities near water sources, creating cozy nests for their offspring. These owls are known for their fidelity to nesting sites, often returning to the same location year after year.

Adept hunters, Barred Owls feast on a variety of prey, from small mammals to amphibians and even fish. Their hunting strategy is a mix of patience and agility, often waiting silently on a perch before swooping down on unsuspecting prey.

The conservation of Barred Owls involves maintaining healthy forest ecosystems. They are relatively adaptable, but urban sprawl and logging pose threats to their habitat. Conservationists in Kansas work towards balancing forest management with the needs of these woodland sentinels.

5. Short-eared Owl

  • Scientific name: Asio flammeus
  • Life span: 12 years
  • Size: 34 to 43 cm (13 to 17 in)
  • Weight: 206 to 475 g (7.3 to 16.8 oz)
  • Wingspan:  85 to 110 cm (33 to 43 in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and rare

The Short-eared Owl, a widespread grassland dweller, is an intriguing species with a global presence, absent only in Antarctica and Australia. These owls showcase a mottled tawny to brown plumage with barred tail and wings, and their upper breast is notably streaked.

Their large eyes, accentuated by black rings, give them a distinctive, intense gaze. Their medium size, big head, short neck, and broad wings contribute to a somewhat hefty appearance.

A Short-Eared Owl in flight

The Short-Eared Owl nests on the ground, a unique trait among its peers. They choose tall grass or scrub to hide their nests, laying eggs directly on a small depression in the earth. This ground-nesting behaviour makes them vulnerable, but their camouflage and secretive nature often keep them safe.

Short-Eared Owls are daytime hunters, a rarity among owls. They glide low over fields, preying on voles, mice, and occasionally small birds. Their hunting style is a graceful dance over the prairies, a testament to their adaptation to the open landscapes of Kansas.

Conservation of the Short-Eared Owl in Kansas involves protecting prairie habitats from development and agricultural encroachment. Their ground-nesting habits make them susceptible to habitat loss.

Efforts are underway to maintain the grasslands they depend on, ensuring these owls continue to grace the Kansas skies.

6. Long-eared Owl

  • Scientific name: Asio otus
  • Life span: 10 to 27 years
  • Size: 31 to 40 cm (12 to 16 in)
  • Weight: 160 to 435 g (5.6 to 15.3 oz)
  • Wingspan: 86 to 102 cm (2ft 10in to 3ft 4in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and rare

Distributed across North America, Europe, and Asia, the Long-Eared Owl has striking ear tufts that give it a distinctive, almost devilish look. Its plumage, a blend of brown, streaked with intricate patterns, serves as effective camouflage in dense forests and woodlands. This species is known for its quiet, secretive nature.

This Long-Eared Owl seems like it was surprised by the cameraman

The Long-Eared Owl nests high in the trees, often in abandoned nests of other birds. They are secretive nesters, preferring dense foliage to conceal their presence. Their nesting choices reflect a blend of stealth and strategy, ensuring the safety of their young.

Long-Eared Owls hunt mostly at twilight, preying on small mammals. Their diet is a testament to their role as twilight hunters, keeping the balance in the ecosystems of Kansas. Their silent flight and acute hearing make them efficient predators.

Conservation of the Long-Eared Owl focuses on protecting woodland habitats and managing human disturbances. These owls are sensitive to habitat loss and disturbances during the breeding season. Efforts in Kansas aim to ensure that these mysterious birds of the twilight continue to thrive.

7. Northern Saw-whet Owl

  • Scientific name: Aegolius acadicus
  • Life span: 7 to 17 years
  • Size: 17 to 22 cm (6.7 to 8.7 in)
  • Weight: 54 to 151 g (1.9 to 5.3 oz)
  • Wingspan: 42 to 56.3 cm (16.5 to 22.2 in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and rare

The Northern Saw-whet Owl, Aegolius acadicus, is a small owl species found across North America. It has a round, light, white face with brown and cream streaks, distinctive yellow eyes, and a dark beak. Juveniles display a dark brown head and wings, with a tawny rust-colored breast and belly, and a unique white, Y-shaped coloration between their eyes.

The underparts are pale with dark shaded areas, while the upper parts are brown or reddish with white spots. They are often found in dense thickets and are typically the size of an American robin. This owl species is known for its tooting whistle sound, used primarily for mating calls.

A close-up photo of a sleeping Northern Saw-Whet Owl

The Northern Saw-Whet Owl, a tiny enigma, opts for dense forests for its nesting sites. They are cavity nesters, often taking over abandoned woodpecker holes. The secretive nature of their nesting behaviour makes them a delightful mystery to birdwatchers in Kansas.

Their diet is primarily made up of insects and small rodents, reflecting their small size. These owls hunt with a stealth and precision that belies their diminutive stature, playing an important role in controlling insect populations.

Conservation efforts for the Northern Saw-Whet Owl in Kansas focus on protecting forest habitats. These tiny owls are sensitive to deforestation and habitat fragmentation. Conservationists advocate for sustainable forestry practices and the protection of wooded areas to ensure the survival of these elusive birds.

8. Burrowing Owl

  • Scientific name: Athene cunicularia
  • Life span: 6-8 years
  • Size: 8-11 inches (20-28 cm)
  • Weight: 4.9-8.5 oz (140-240 g)
  • Wingspan: 20-24 inches (51-61 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and rare

The Burrowing Owl, found in open habitats across the Americas, is known for its endearing appearance and unique nesting habits. With long legs and a relatively small size, it differs from typical owls.

Its mottled brown plumage, spotted with white, complements its burrowing lifestyle. These owls are known for their burrow-dwelling and ground-hunting behaviours.

Burrowing Owls peeking out from their hole

The Burrowing Owl, a ground-dweller, makes its home in the open prairies of Kansas. They utilize abandoned burrows of prairie dogs or other burrowing mammals, adding an interesting dynamic to the prairie ecosystem. Their presence in the burrows is a unique adaptation, showcasing their resourcefulness.

Their diet consists mainly of insects and small rodents, reflecting their life in the open grasslands. These owls hunt both day and night, displaying versatility and resilience in their hunting habits, vital for survival in the varying landscapes of Kansas.

Conservation for the Burrowing Owl in Kansas involves protecting prairie ecosystems and the burrows they inhabit. They face threats from agricultural development and loss of prairie dog colonies. Conservationists strive to maintain healthy prairie ecosystems, ensuring the continued presence of these charismatic ground-dwellers.

9. Snowy Owl

  • Scientific name: Bubo scandiacus
  • Life span: 9-10 years
  • Size: 20-28 inches (52-71 cm)
  • Weight: 3.5-6.5 lb (1600-2950 g)
  • Wingspan: 4.2-4.8 ft (130-150 cm)
  • Status: Vulnerable
  • State status: Migratory and rare

The Snowy Owl, a symbol of the Arctic, inhabits the tundra regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. With its pure white plumage, bright yellow eyes, and round face, it stands out as an iconic figure against the frozen landscapes it calls home. These owls are well adapted to their frigid surroundings.

This Snowy Owl seems to have spotted the cameraman

The Snowy Owl, a rare winter visitor to Kansas, is known for its nomadic nesting behaviour. They nest on the ground in their Arctic breeding grounds and are rarely seen nesting in Kansas. Their presence in the state is a special occurrence, adding a touch of Arctic mystery to the Kansas winters.

In their Arctic homes, Snowy Owls hunt lemmings and other small mammals. During their visits to Kansas, they adapt by hunting local rodents and birds. Their hunting prowess is a display of adaptability and survival in varying landscapes.

Conservation efforts for Snowy Owls during their visits to Kansas include monitoring their migration patterns and ensuring minimal disturbance. As climate change affects their Arctic habitat, understanding their migration to places like Kansas becomes increasingly important for their conservation.

10. Great Horned Owl

  • Scientific name: Bubo virginianus
  • Life span: 25 – 50 years
  • Size: 43 to 64 cm (17 to 25 in)
  • Weight: 1200 to 1600 g (2.64 to 3.52 lbs)
  • Wingspan: 91 to 153 cm (3ft 0in to 5ft 0in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and common

Majestically ruling the skies across the Americas, the Great Horned Owl, known as the “tiger of the air,” is a sight to behold. Its mottled brown plumage, interspersed with darker markings and horizontal barring, blends seamlessly into its surroundings.

A distinctive white patch adorns its throat, adding to its striking appearance. These owls are native to diverse habitats, from the Arctic down to South America, showcasing their incredible adaptability.

A Great Horned Owl in flight

The Great Horned Owl, a majestic dweller of Kansas, does not craft its own nest. Instead, it claims abandoned nests of other large birds, often perching in secluded, lofty heights. These birds are early nesters, starting as soon as January.

Their choice of nesting sites varies from dense forests to solitary trees in open spaces, showing their adaptability and keen sense of security.

A formidable predator, the Great Horned Owl feasts on a diverse menu. They primarily hunt at night, seizing rodents, rabbits, and even skunks with their powerful talons. Occasionally, they might snatch other birds from the sky. Their diet reflects their role as nocturnal rulers of the skies, keeping the rodent population in check.

While the Great Horned Owl thrives in Kansas, conservation efforts focus on preserving their habitat and mitigating human-wildlife conflicts. They are relatively adaptable, but deforestation and urbanization pose threats.

Conservationists emphasize the importance of protecting wooded areas and educating the public about the significance of these magnificent birds in the ecosystem.

Where to look for Owls in Kansas

Owls are predominantly nocturnal, so the best time to spot them is during the early morning or late evening hours. To increase your chances of seeing these elusive birds, it’s important to know where to look and how to approach owl watching.

Owls typically inhabit areas with abundant trees and shelter. Forested areas, particularly near water sources like rivers and wetlands, are ideal. In Kansas, you can find various owl species in different habitats, from dense woodlands to open prairies.

Some owls, like the Burrowing Owl, prefer open grasslands, while others, like the Barred Owl, are more likely to be found in wooded areas.

Here are four great areas in Kansas for owl watching:

  • Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area: This is a renowned wetland that hosts a variety of bird species, including owls.
  • Quivira National Wildlife Refuge: Offers diverse habitats that attract different owl species.
  • Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve: Ideal for spotting prairie-dwelling species like the Burrowing Owl.
  • Wilson State Park: Forested areas here can be a good spot for finding species like the Barred Owl.

When looking for owls, listen for their distinctive calls, which can often be heard from a distance. Owls also leave signs of their presence, such as pellets or feather remains under roosting spots. It’s important to approach these areas quietly and respectfully, as owls can be easily disturbed.


The diverse owl species of Kansas, from the majestic Great Horned to the elusive Long-Eared Owl, play vital roles in the state’s ecosystems. Each species, with its unique nesting behaviours, diets, and adaptations, highlights the intricate balance of nature. The ongoing conservation efforts underscore the importance of preserving these magnificent birds and their habitats. As stewards of the environment, understanding and protecting Kansas’ owls is crucial for maintaining the natural harmony of the region.

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