9 Owls in Vermont (With Pictures)

9 Owls in Vermont (With Pictures)

Nestled within Vermont’s diverse landscapes, owls quietly inhabit the state’s woods and fields. These nocturnal birds have long fascinated both wildlife enthusiasts and casual observers. In this article, we will explore the owl species found in Vermont and delve into their intriguing lives.

Vermont’s varying ecosystems, ranging from dense forests to open fields, provide homes for several owl species, each adapted to its specific environment. As daylight wanes, these birds emerge from their daytime hideouts, relying on their silent flight to hunt for prey. We will uncover the distinct features and hunting techniques of Vermont’s owls, shedding light on their crucial roles in the state’s ecosystem.

This article invites you to peer into the often unseen world of Vermont’s owls, highlighting their captivating behaviors and underscoring the importance of preserving their habitats in this northeastern state.

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 uncommon        

The Eastern Screech Owl, a master of camouflage, inhabits the woodlands and forests of Eastern North America. It boasts a complex plumage that mimics the rough texture and color of tree bark, ranging from reddish-brown to gray, allowing it to blend seamlessly into its surroundings.

This owl’s small, stocky build is characterized by ear tufts that add to its cryptic appearance. Its hauntingly beautiful yellow eyes peer out from its well-disguised perch, making it a sight to behold in its natural habitat.

An Eastern-Screech owl looking angrily at the cameraman

The Eastern Screech Owl, a charming occupant of Vermont’s verdant woodlands, finds solace in the hollows of trees, artfully turning these natural cavities into their nesting abode. They display a remarkable adaptability in choosing their homes, sometimes even settling in human-made nest boxes, creating a cozy, sheltered environment for their offspring.

As night descends upon the Vermont forests, the Eastern Screech Owl embarks on its quest for food. Its diet is a reflection of the local ecosystem’s diversity, capturing everything from moths and beetles to small birds and bats. This varied diet showcases the owl’s adaptability and skill as a nocturnal predator.

In Vermont, the Eastern Screech Owl’s existence is a delicate dance with human expansion. Efforts to conserve this species involve meticulous habitat management, ensuring the preservation of old trees with suitable cavities and promoting the installation of nest boxes in areas where natural nesting sites are scarce.

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

Venturing across the vast expanse of the Americas, the Great Horned Owl is an iconic bird of prey known for its impressive size and distinctive tufts that resemble horns. Its plumage is a mottled mix of browns, whites, and blacks, providing excellent camouflage in a variety of environments, from deserts to forests.

The Great Horned Owl’s piercing yellow eyes and stern, almost regal expression have captivated bird enthusiasts and casual observers alike, making it a symbol of the wilderness’s untamed beauty.

Close up photo of a Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl in Vermont exhibits an eclectic choice of nesting locations, often taking over nests built by other birds, particularly in tall trees or cliff ledges. These nests, located in strategic positions, offer a vantage point for the owls to survey their territory and protect their young.

In the diverse habitats of Vermont, the Great Horned Owl’s diet is a testament to its status as a formidable predator. It includes larger mammals like raccoons, in addition to smaller prey. This varied diet reflects the owl’s adaptability and prowess in different hunting scenarios.

The Great Horned Owl’s robust nature has allowed it to thrive in various environments in Vermont. Conservation efforts are centered on maintaining this resilience, with a focus on habitat conservation and monitoring to ensure the health and stability of their populations.

3. 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: Migratory and rare (occasional sightings during winter)

The Great Grey Owl, with its imposing presence, dwells in the boreal forests of the Northern Hemisphere. Its large, rounded head, accentuated by a pronounced facial disc, and piercing yellow eyes, are set against a soft, mottled grey plumage.

This owl’s subtle yet striking coloration blends effortlessly with the trunks of the coniferous trees it perches upon, rendering it nearly invisible to the untrained eye.

Great Grey Owl sitting on a tree stump in the snow

Though a rare visitor in Vermont, the Great Grey Owl’s nesting habits are a marvel. When they do nest, these owls choose quiet, secluded areas, often in dense forests, using existing nests to raise their young, adding a layer of mystery to their already elusive nature.

If a Great Grey Owl were to stay in Vermont, its diet would likely consist of small mammals, especially those found in forested areas. Their exceptional hunting abilities, particularly in detecting prey beneath the snow, would be an impressive sight in Vermont’s winter landscape.

The conservation of the Great Grey Owl in Vermont is more about monitoring and research due to their rare appearances. Efforts are focused on understanding their migration patterns and ensuring that their occasional visits to Vermont are supported by a healthy ecosystem.

4. 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: 29 to 36 cm (11 to 14 in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and extremely rare (very occasional sightings)

Barn Owls, with their distinctive heart-shaped faces, are found across the globe in a variety of habitats, including farmlands, woodlands, and even urban areas. Their plumage is a soft, tawny color on the back with a contrasting white or light grey on the underside.

The face, a stark white, frames the Barn Owl’s dark, enigmatic eyes. This owl’s ghostly appearance and eerie screech have made it a subject of folklore and intrigue throughout history.

The American Barn Owl taking flight from a log

Barn Owls in Vermont exhibit a blend of adaptability and tradition in their nesting habits. They readily use man-made structures, like barns and old buildings, as well as natural tree cavities, creating a safe and secluded space to raise their young in the heart of Vermont’s rural landscape.

The Barn Owl’s diet in Vermont would primarily consist of rodents, playing an essential role in controlling these populations in agricultural and open areas. Their silent, ghost-like flight in the dead of night as they hunt is both eerie and fascinating, a natural spectacle in the Vermont countryside.

Barn Owl conservation in Vermont involves maintaining and enhancing their habitats, including the preservation of old barns and buildings. Efforts are also geared towards habitat management that supports a healthy rodent population, crucial for the barn owl’s survival and prosperity in the region.

5. 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, a resident of dense woodlands across Eastern North America, is known for its distinctive “who cooks for you” call. Its plumage is an intricate tapestry of brown and white stripes and bars, giving it its name.

The Barred Owl’s dark, soulful eyes and round face framed by a brown and white pattern create a captivating appearance. This owl’s elusive nature adds an air of mystery to the deep forests it inhabits.

A close up photo of a Barred Owl and its glassy eyes

Barred Owls in Vermont are secretive nesters, often choosing secluded spots in mature forests. Their choice of nests, whether in natural tree cavities or abandoned nests of other birds, reflects their need for a quiet, undisturbed place to raise their young.

The Barred Owl’s diet in Vermont’s forests is a microcosm of the local ecosystem. Feeding on everything from small mammals to invertebrates and occasionally fish, their hunting prowess is a key factor in the ecological balance of their forest habitats.

The Barred Owl’s conservation in Vermont focuses on protecting mature forests and managing human-wildlife interactions. As their habitats often overlap with human areas, efforts include public education to foster coexistence and habitat preservation to ensure their continued presence in Vermont’s forests.

6. 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

Inhabiting open landscapes like grasslands and marshes across many parts of the world, the Short-Eared Owl is known for its short ear tufts and ground-nesting habits.

Its plumage is a blend of browns and tans with bold streaks, providing excellent camouflage against the earthy tones of its habitat. The Short-Eared Owl’s yellow eyes, set against a pale facial disc, give it a striking, yet somewhat ghostly, visage in the twilight hours it is often active.

A Short-Eared Owl in flight

Short-Eared Owls in Vermont are unique in their ground-nesting habits. They choose open fields and meadows to build their nests, a rare and fascinating adaptation that makes them vulnerable yet resilient in the face of the challenges posed by their habitat choice.

In Vermont’s open landscapes, the Short-Eared Owl would primarily feed on small mammals. Their hunting style, involving low, sweeping flights over open fields, is a captivating sight and a critical component of the ecosystem, controlling rodent populations.

The conservation of Short-Eared Owls in Vermont is focused on preserving and restoring open grassland habitats. Efforts include habitat management and working with landowners to foster practices that support the survival and prosperity of these unique ground-nesting owls.

7. 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

The Long-Eared Owl, a slender and elegant bird, is found across Europe, Asia, and North America. Its most striking feature is its long ear tufts, which stand tall above its head, giving it an alert and intense appearance.

The plumage is predominantly mottled brown and buff, with intricate patterns that provide excellent camouflage in its preferred wooded habitats. This owl’s orange-yellow eyes add a dash of color to its otherwise muted appearance.

A Long-Eared Owl sitting on a log in a field

The Long-Eared Owl, a rare but enchanting presence in Vermont, shows a preference for dense foliage when nesting. Their choice of nesting in secluded, quiet areas reflects their elusive nature and the need for a secure environment to raise their young.

In Vermont, the Long-Eared Owl would likely feed on a variety of small mammals and birds. This diet underscores the owl’s role as a natural controller of rodent populations, showcasing its ecological importance in Vermont’s diverse habitats.

Conservation of the Long-Eared Owl in Vermont involves habitat preservation and enhancing public awareness. By protecting forest areas and educating the community about these elusive owls, Vermont aims to ensure that these mysterious birds continue to grace its landscapes.

8. 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 and endearing bird, makes its home in the dense forests of North America. Its plumage is a rich brown with white streaks and spots, creating a beautiful pattern that aids in camouflage.

The large, round, yellow eyes of the Northern Saw-Whet Owl give it an almost perpetually surprised look, adding to its charm. Despite its small size, this owl’s presence is significant in the forest ecosystem.

A close-up photo of the shy Northern Saw-Whet Owl sitting on a twig

The Northern Saw-Whet Owl in Vermont creates a hidden nursery for its young in the cavities of trees. These tiny owls show a remarkable preference for dense, secluded areas, ensuring the safety and privacy of their nests, a tiny secret tucked away in the forest.

In Vermont, the Northern Saw-Whet Owl’s diet would be a collection of small prey, showcasing its role as a nocturnal hunter. The owl’s ability to capture a variety of insects and small mammals highlights its adaptability and importance in the local ecosystem.

Northern Saw-Whet Owls in Vermont are beneficiaries of conservation efforts aimed at preserving forest habitats and enhancing nesting opportunities. By providing nesting boxes and protecting wooded areas, conservationists are working to ensure these diminutive owls remain a beloved part of Vermont’s nocturnal chorus.

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 (usually seen during irruption years)

Resplendent in its pure white plumage with scattered black markings, the Snowy Owl is a majestic inhabitant of the Arctic regions. This bird’s striking appearance, accentuated by its round, golden eyes, is perfectly adapted to the snowy, open landscapes it calls home.

The Snowy Owl, unlike many of its relatives, is often seen in the daylight, perched majestically against a backdrop of ice and snow, embodying the pristine beauty of its polar environment.

A Snowy Owl flying close to the ground

Although the Snowy Owl is primarily a winter visitor in Vermont, its nesting behavior, when observed, is unique. Preferring wide-open spaces, these owls nest on the ground, a rare habit in the owl world. They skillfully use the terrain to camouflage and protect their nests.

The Snowy Owl’s presence in Vermont brings a glimpse into its Arctic feeding habits. In Vermont’s winter landscape, they hunt for local rodents and small birds, showcasing their ability to adapt their Arctic hunting skills to the Vermont environment.

The conservation of the Snowy Owl in Vermont is closely tied to broader environmental health indicators. Efforts include habitat preservation and scientific studies to better understand the impacts of climate change on these majestic birds, both locally and in their Arctic breeding grounds.

Where to look for Owls in Vermont

If you’re an owl enthusiast or simply seeking an enchanting wildlife experience, Vermont provides a range of locations to spot these elusive birds.

  • Wooded Areas: Vermont’s extensive forests and woodlands are prime owl habitats. Explore places like the Green Mountain National Forest, where barred owls and Eastern screech owls can often be heard hooting after dusk. Look for owl pellets on the forest floor, a sign that owls are actively hunting in the area.
  • Wetlands and Marshes: Vermont’s wetland areas are home to great horned owls and northern saw-whet owls. Locations like the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge and Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area are known for their rich birdlife, including owls. Listen for their distinctive calls during the evening hours.
  • Farmlands and Open Fields: Barn owls and short-eared owls can be found in Vermont’s agricultural landscapes. Visit open fields and farmlands around places like Shelburne Farms and Lake Champlain Islands, where barns and old buildings provide ideal roosting spots for these species.
  • Nature Reserves: Vermont’s nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries offer excellent opportunities for owl spotting. The Birds of Vermont Museum and Audubon Vermont’s Green Mountain Audubon Center are great locations to learn about owls and participate in guided owl walks.

To increase your chances of spotting owls, plan your outings during dawn and dusk when owls are most active. Remember to be respectful of their habitats and keep a safe distance to avoid disturbing these magnificent creatures in their natural environment.

Conclusion

From the serene forests to the picturesque wetlands and open fields, this state offers a variety of habitats for these mysterious birds of prey.

By exploring the suggested areas and respecting the owls’ natural habitats, you can embark on a rewarding journey to witness these nocturnal wonders in their element, making unforgettable memories while contributing to their conservation.

Vermont truly stands as a haven for owl enthusiasts and a testament to the state’s commitment to preserving its remarkable wildlife.

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