10 Owls in Maine (With Pictures)

10 Owls in Maine (With Pictures)

Maine, a state known for its rugged coastline and dense forests, is also a haven for a remarkable variety of owls. These nocturnal birds of prey, with their enigmatic presence and haunting calls, add a layer of mystique to Maine’s diverse wildlife.

In this article, we will explore the ten different owl species that call Maine home, each with its unique characteristics and adaptations.

From the imposing Great Horned Owl, ruling the skies with its formidable presence, to the elusive Northern Hawk Owl, exhibiting behaviours akin to hawks, Maine’s owls are a testament to nature’s diversity and adaptability.

Whether perched silently in dense forests or gliding gracefully over open fields, these owls not only play a crucial role in the ecosystem but also captivate the imagination of birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.

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 small yet captivating bird, is native to the eastern parts of North America. It exhibits remarkable plumage variability, ranging from a rich red to a soft gray, beautifully patterned with intricate bands and streaks.

This camouflage makes it almost invisible against the tree bark. Its piercing yellow eyes and a curved beak add to its mystique, while the ear tufts contribute to its charismatic persona, evoking a sense of curiosity and wonder.

An Eastern-Screech owl in a tree cavity

Eastern Screech-Owls in Maine use tree cavities for nesting, including old woodpecker holes. They adapt well to human-altered landscapes and can also use nest boxes.

They prefer wooded areas with a mix of tree species. Their adaptability to urban environments has helped them maintain stable populations.

Their diet includes a variety of small animals, such as insects, rodents, small birds, and occasionally fish and amphibians. They are opportunistic feeders and adapt their diet to the available prey. This flexibility in diet allows them to thrive in various habitats.

Conservation efforts for Eastern Screech-Owls in Maine focus on habitat preservation and providing nesting boxes in areas where natural cavities are scarce. They are not currently a conservation concern, but monitoring helps ensure their populations remain stable.

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
  • State status: Breeding and common

The Great Horned Owl, a symbol of wisdom and vigilance, commands attention with its striking appearance. Native to the Americas, this bird roosts in a range spanning from the Arctic tundras to the tropical rainforests. Its mottled gray-brown feathers, punctuated with darker bars and spots, blend seamlessly into the tree bark.

The most distinctive feature is its prominent feather tufts that resemble horns, coupled with deep-set, piercing yellow eyes that exude an air of solemnity and mystery.

An angry-looking Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl in Maine often occupies nests built by other species, such as hawks, crows, or even squirrels. They do not build their own nests but modify the stolen ones by adding feathers and other soft materials.

This opportunistic nesting strategy allows them to occupy a variety of habitats, from dense forests to open countrysides.

This owl’s diet is diverse, including mammals like rabbits and skunks, birds, reptiles, and insects. They are powerful predators, capable of hunting prey much larger than themselves, and are known for their silent flight during hunting. This varied diet reflects their adaptability and importance as a top predator in their ecosystem.

The Great Horned Owl is not currently considered threatened in Maine. Conservation efforts include protecting their natural habitats and ensuring a stable food supply. They benefit from forest conservation and responsible pest management practices that maintain their food sources. Educational programs about these owls help in promoting conservation awareness.

3. 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

Roaming the dense forests of North America, the Barred Owl is a sight to behold. It boasts a distinctive pattern of brown and white vertical bars on its chest and horizontal bars on its belly, giving it its name. Its dark brown eyes, set against a round, pale face, offer a striking contrast.

The lack of ear tufts gives it a more rounded head shape, accentuating its expressive face and enhancing its serene, wise demeanour.

A Barred Owl sitting on a tree stump

Barred Owls in Maine use tree cavities for nesting, often in mature forests. They may also take over nests made by other large birds. Both parents participate in raising the young, with the male providing food and the female incubating the eggs. Their choice of nesting sites in large, old trees makes the conservation of mature forests crucial for their survival.

Their diet is varied, including small mammals, birds, amphibians, and fish. They hunt primarily at night, waiting on a perch and swooping down on prey detected by sound. This varied diet allows them to adapt to different environments and contributes to their success as a species.

Barred Owls are common and not currently considered threatened in Maine. Conservation efforts include preserving forest habitats and educating the public about coexisting with these birds, especially in suburban areas where they are increasingly encountered. Monitoring their populations helps in understanding their ecological impact and in making informed conservation decisions.

4. 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 uncommon

Short-eared Owls, nomadic wanderers, are found across North and South America, Europe, Asia, and many Pacific Islands. These owls have a unique, ethereal beauty. Their mottled brown and buff plumage provides excellent camouflage against the grasslands and open country they frequent.

Unlike their relatives, their “ears” are barely visible, giving their round, pale faces a distinctive, almost otherworldly appearance.

A Short-Eared Owl in flight

Short-eared Owls nest on the ground in open areas like fields and marshes. They scrape a small depression in the ground and line it with grass, feathers, and other materials. Their ground-nesting habits make their eggs and young vulnerable to predators, requiring these owls to be vigilant and protective of their nesting sites.

Their diet mainly consists of small mammals, particularly voles. These owls are adapted to hunting in open landscapes, flying low to the ground to detect and capture their prey. This hunting style makes them effective controllers of rodent populations in their habitats.

Short-eared Owls are of conservation concern in Maine due to habitat loss and degradation. Efforts to conserve them focus on preserving and managing open fields and grasslands, crucial for their survival and hunting practices. Environmental education and land management policies play a significant role in these conservation efforts.

5. 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: Breeding and uncommon

The Long-eared Owl, slender and elegant, is widespread across the Northern Hemisphere. Its long, ear-like tufts and orange facial disk, bordered with black, make it easily distinguishable.

The owl’s mottled brown and buff plumage, streaked with darker lines, provides superb camouflage in its preferred wooded habitats. The intense yellow eyes peer from the plumage, adding a captivating intensity to its appearance, making it a marvel in the avian world.

A Long-Eared Owl sitting in a tree

Long-eared Owls in Maine are secretive and prefer dense forests. They often use abandoned nests of other birds and sometimes nest in dense shrubbery. They are less likely to be found in urban or developed areas compared to other owl species. Their nesting habits make them challenging to study and monitor.

Their diet mainly consists of small mammals, and like many other owls, it’s particularly voles. They hunt at night, using their acute hearing and silent flight to locate and capture prey. This diet makes them an important part of the ecosystem in controlling rodent populations.

Long-eared Owls are of conservation concern in Maine, mainly due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Efforts are aimed at protecting forest habitats and monitoring their population trends. Research and data collection are crucial for understanding their ecological needs and for planning effective conservation strategies.

6. Northern Hawk Owl

  • Scientific name: Surnia ulula
  • Life span: 10 years
  • Size: 36 to 42.5 cm (14.2 to 16.7 in)
  • Weight: 300 g (11 oz)
  • Wingspan: 45 cm (18 in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Rare (irregular winter visitor)

The Northern Hawk Owl, unique among its kin, possesses an appearance reminiscent of both an owl and a hawk. This bird, inhabiting the boreal forests of North America and Eurasia, displays a long, tapered tail and a hawk-like profile.

Its brown and white plumage is elegantly streaked and barred, giving it a sleek appearance. The bright yellow eyes, set in a starkly contrasting black-and-white face, enhance its intense, focused gaze.

A Northern Hawk-Owl sitting on a pole

Northern Hawk-Owls don’t breed in Maine but they use tree cavities or abandoned nests of other birds. They are known for their diurnal habits, unlike most other owls. Their nesting behaviour and choice of habitats make them unique among North American owls.

Their diet in Maine includes small mammals and birds. They hunt during the day, using a perch-and-pounce technique similar to hawks. This hunting style allows them to be effective hunters in their preferred open woodland habitats

The Northern Hawk Owl’s rarity in Maine makes conservation efforts challenging. Focus is on habitat preservation and research to understand their habitat requirements and migration patterns. Protecting their habitats and understanding their ecological role is crucial for their conservation.

7. Great Grey Owl

  • Scientific name: Strix nebulosa
  • Life span: 8-10 years
  • Size: 24-33 inches (60-84 cm)
  • Weight: 24-60 oz (680-1700 g)
  • Wingspan: 54-60 inches (137-152 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Rare (irregular winter visitor)

The Great Gray Owl, the tallest owl in North America, exudes a mysterious aura. Found in the boreal forests across the Northern Hemisphere, it has a large, rounded head with a gray face and a distinctive white “bow tie” at the throat.

Its eyes, small for an owl, are a deep yellow. The overall plumage is a mix of gray and brown with faint barring, giving it a somber yet captivating appearance.

Great Grey Owl sitting on a log

Great Gray Owls, rare visitors in Maine, typically nest in dense coniferous forests in the northern regions of America. They use nests built by other birds or natural platforms.

In their rare visits to Maine, they primarily feed on small rodents, especially voles. They hunt using their exceptional hearing, often detecting prey under snow or dense vegetation. This specialized hunting skill is crucial for their survival in their natural habitats.

Due to their rare status in Maine, conservation efforts for Great Gray Owls focus on habitat protection and research to better understand their habitat use and migration patterns. Studying these rare visitors helps in making informed decisions about their conservation.

8. Boreal Owl

  • Scientific name: Aegolius funereus
  • Life span: 8-10 years
  • Size: 8-10 inches (22-27 cm)
  • Weight: 3.5-7.5 oz (100-210 g)
  • Wingspan: 20-24 inches (51-61 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Rare (irregular winter visitor)

Inhabiting the boreal forests across the Northern Hemisphere, the Boreal Owl is a small, elusive creature. It has a compact body with a large, rounded head and no ear tufts. The plumage is a rich brown, speckled with white, providing excellent camouflage against the tree bark. Its striking yellow eyes, set in a facial disk that is paler than the rest of its plumage, give it a distinctive, alert expression.

A Boreal Owl in a tree cavity

Boreal Owls don’t breed in Maine but they use natural cavities or those created by woodpeckers. They prefer remote and undisturbed areas for nesting. Their reliance on specific types of nesting sites makes them sensitive to changes in their habitat.

Their diet consists mainly of small mammals like voles and shrews. They hunt at night, using their acute hearing to locate prey hidden under snow or vegetation. This predatory behaviour is essential for controlling rodent populations in their ecosystems.

Conservation efforts for Boreal Owls in Maine include protecting their forest habitats and studying their population dynamics. They are considered a species of conservation concern due to their reliance on specific habitat types. Research and habitat management are key to their conservation.

9. 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 uncommon

The Northern Saw-whet Owl, a diminutive yet charismatic bird, inhabits the densely forested regions of North America. Its plumage is a rich tapestry of browns and whites, creating a striking contrast.

The bird’s round, oversized head, bright yellow eyes, and black beak give it a perpetually surprised look. The fine white streaking on its forehead and underparts, along with its brown and white striped back and wings, make it a visual treat in its woodland home.

The tiny Northern Saw-Whet Owl sitting on a glove

Northern Saw-whet Owls in Maine typically nest in dense forests, using tree cavities for nesting. They often use abandoned woodpecker holes and can also use nest boxes provided by humans. They prefer secluded areas for nesting to avoid predators. This seclusion also makes them less visible and better protected from larger predators.

Their diet primarily includes small rodents, particularly mice. They may also eat insects and other small animals. These owls hunt at night, relying on their excellent hearing and night vision. Their role in controlling rodent populations is vital for the ecological balance in their habitats.

In Maine, conservation for Northern Saw-whet Owls focuses on preserving their forest habitats and monitoring populations. They benefit from old-growth forest conservation and efforts to maintain a healthy and diverse forest ecosystem. Public education about these owls contributes to their protection and conservation.

10. 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 (irregular winter visitor)

The Snowy Owl, an icon of the Arctic, mesmerizes with its pristine white plumage, which may be speckled with black spots. This majestic bird’s substantial presence is heightened by its bright yellow eyes and black beak, contrasting starkly against its snowy feathers.

The snowy owl’s ability to blend into the Arctic tundra’s icy landscape is a testament to its adaptation to one of the harshest environments on Earth.

A Snowy Owl in flight

Snowy Owls, visitors to Maine during winter, breed in the Arctic tundra and are not known to breed in Maine. During their winter stay, they roost in open areas like fields and coastal dunes. Their presence in Maine is part of their migratory patterns, seeking areas with abundant prey during the winter months.

While in Maine, they feed on a variety of small mammals and birds. Their diet changes based on the availability of prey in their wintering areas. This adaptability in diet is crucial for their survival in varying winter conditions.

Snowy Owls are monitored as part of broader conservation efforts, focusing on protecting their wintering habitats and reducing disturbances. Climate change and its impact on their Arctic breeding grounds are also of concern. Research on their migratory patterns and habitat use is vital for their conservation.

Where to look for Owls in Maine

To find owls in Maine, timing and location are crucial. Owls are primarily nocturnal, so the best times to spot them are at dusk or dawn. Listening for their distinctive calls during these times can be an effective way to locate them.

Four notable areas in Maine for owl spotting are:

  • Acadia National Park: This coastal park, known for its diverse habitats, is a haven for birdwatchers. Here, you might catch sight of the Barred Owl or the Eastern Screech-Owl perched in the dense woodlands.
  • Baxter State Park: Located in the northern part of the state, this park is home to the majestic Great Gray Owl and the Boreal Owl, especially in the more remote, wooded areas.
  • Allagash Wilderness Waterway: This extensive and remote area, with its vast forests and waterways, is an ideal habitat for the Northern Hawk Owl and the Great Horned Owl.
  • Downeast Maine: The forests and coastal areas of Downeast Maine, including areas like the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, are excellent for spotting various owl species, including the Snowy Owl in the open coastal plains.

When searching for owls in these areas, it’s important to maintain a respectful distance and minimize disturbance to their natural habitat. Using binoculars or a spotting scope can enhance your viewing experience without getting too close.


Owls in Maine play a vital role in the state’s ecosystem, with a diverse range of species contributing to its unique avian landscape. From the common and adaptable Great Horned Owl to the occasional, enigmatic visitors like the Snowy Owl and Great Gray Owl, these majestic birds continue to captivate both enthusiasts and conservationists.

While some owl populations thrive as breeders, others remain rare and migratory, underscoring the importance of continued vigilance and habitat preservation to ensure the well-being of these mysterious and iconic creatures in the Pine Tree State

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