According to ornithologists, there are approximately 200 types of owls living in habitats around the world. If you have been a fan of these birds of the night, then you have come to the right place. Learn everything you could want to know about these winged beauties, their classification and the many different types of owls.
- Owls don’t have true “eyeballs.” Instead, they have tube-shaped eyes that are completely immobile.
- A group of owls gathered together is called a “parliament”, inspired C.S. Lewis’s description in The Chronicles of Narnia of a meeting of owls.
- Many owls have asymmetrical ears. The placement allows the owl to pinpoint the exact location of sounds in multiple dimensions.
- An owl can’t rotate their head all the way around, only 270 degrees.
- Most owl species vocalize at a notably low frequency to allow their song to travel long distances.
Owls are birds, all of whom belong to the order Strigiformes. Approximately 200 of the owl species that belong to the group share quite a few traits. Most of the species are solitary creatures except when it comes to the breeding season. Their bodies, eyes and ears have evolved to support their nocturnal lifestyle.
Owls are well known for their upright stance, broad heads and large eyes. They have binocular vision and a nictitating membrane over each eye that allows them to move independently from each other.
Owls also have what is called “binaural hearing,” defined as a listener’s ability to identify the location or origin of a sound they detect. Owls can tell the distance and location of almost any sound they hear, from a mouse’s scuttle to a pigeon’s wing flap.
The system of classifying owls is quite simple. Within the Strigiformes group, there are only two divisions, which are called families. These two families are the Barn Owls and the owls called “true” owls. Barn owls tend to have heart-shaped faces. True owls have round faces.
Share This Image On Your Site
<a href="https://outforia.com/types-of-owls/"><img style="width:100%;" src="https://outforia.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Outforia-Infographic-Types-of-Owls-0921.png"></a><br> Types of Owls Infographic by <a href="https://outforia.com">Outforia</a>
The family of barn owls are scientifically called the Tytonidae family. The second family is known as the Strigidae family. The Strigidae family contains most of the owl species, about 189 of the 200 total owl species. These 189 species are typically split between about 19 genera, but they can change and shift as scientists conduct research on individual species.
In the Tytonidae family, there are Barn Owls in the genus Tyto and there are Bay Owls in the genus Phodilus. All of the species in this family are spread in between these two genera.
Many species of owls are endangered, and many more are threatened. As you move through our list of species and types of owls, look for an asterisk next to their names to describe the level of risk associated with each species.
One asterisk means that the species is on the list of threatened or vulnerable animals. These owls face dramatic or abnormal population decreases and growing threats to their survival.
Two asterisks mean that the species are either endangered or in critical danger of becoming extinct if no conservation efforts are implemented to save them.
Owl populations are declining due to habitat loss, climate change and poaching. The case study of the Snowy Owl explains the threats in real-world circumstances.
Fortunately, conservation projects around the world are working to address the challenges owl species face. If you want to support these efforts with volunteer hours or financial contributions projects run by organizations like the Owl Research Institute can help point you in the right direction.
If you want to help owls in your local area, look up the owls that live in your region and whether or not their populations are struggling. There will often be an organization that will help you get started on a regional project. Of course, you can always donate to a worthy cause, but we caution you to always do your research when donating to an organization.
Time to give you a brief description of each of the genera of owls and highlight a few species that stand out within the genera. Finally, we give you a complete list of the rest of the current species that belong to that genera.
The most prominent family of owls is called the true owls. Scientists also call them typical owls. This arrangement of species lives throughout the world, found on every continent except for Antarctica.
After the family classification, the next level is called genus. The following list presents the collection of species found within each genus. Unfortunately, more than two dozen species of owls have become extinct over the last half-century.
The Glaucidium is arguably one of the recognizable genera of owl. There are approximately 29 species distributed over the globe. They are either called Pygmy owls or Owlets because of their small size, even into adulthood.
The Ancient Greek root of their genus’s name reflects their physical stature. The word “glaukidion” translates to mean “little owl.” The species in this genera are almost all nocturnal and primarily hunt large insects.
The Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl has the widest distribution of all of the pygmy owls. They are abundant species throughout their entire habitat. Well-established they are classified as “Least Concern” in terms of conservation risks.
This small owl breeds in Arizona and southern Texas in the United States and south into Mexico and further down through Bolivia, Argentina, and Paraguay. They prefer to make their homes in a range of semi-open woodland habitats.
One of the unique aspects of this little owl is that instead of being strictly nocturnal, they are crepuscular. That means they often hunt during twilight and dawn, making them one of the more common owls to see throughout their region.
The Eurasian Pygmy-Owl is the smallest owl living in Europe. Their Latin name indicates that they are sparrow-sized. The Eurasian Pygmy Owl has been classified from the beginning of the system since they were described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758.
They make their home in the boreal forests in the Northern and Central regions of Europe through Siberia. The owl’s body is primarily dark reddish-brown with small white spots over their plumage. This species is sedentary and doesn’t migrate unless the winters are particularly harsh.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the Eurasian Pygmy Owl as “Least Concern’ for extinction risks.
The Jungle Owlet has another common name, the Barred Jungle Owlet. This name accurately describes its unique appearance. The owl’s entire body is layered with bars of creamy white and light brown. They make their home on the Indian subcontinent bars and are sometimes found in the Western Ghats.
This small owl is somewhat visually unique since they have no apparent facial disk typical of many other owl species. As a result, these owls are sometimes considered a subspecies of various other species within the genus. However, they currently have full species status.
The Baja Pygmy-Owl, also called the Capy Pygmy-Owl, are sometimes considered a subspecies of the Northern Pygmy-Owl. There’s some confusion about the species distinctions. The International Ornithologists’ Union, which considers it a separate species, and the American Ornithological Society does not.
This species habitat is restricted to the state of Baja California Sur in Mexico. Their feathers are brown and white and in patterns similar to bark, with black triangles outlined in white on the back of their head like eyespots. The plumage helps the owl blend into the trees in which they live.
- African Barred Owlet (Glaucidium capense)
- *Albertine Owlet (Glaucidium albertinum)
- Amazonian Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium hardyi)
- Andean Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium jardinii)
- Asian Barred Owlet (Glaucidium cuculoides)
- Austral Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium nana)
- Central American Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium griseiceps)
- Chestnut Owlet (Glaucidium castaneum)
- *Chestnut-Backed Owlet (Glaucidium castanotum)
- *Cloudforest Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium nubicola)
- Colima Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium palmarum)
- Collared Owlet (Glaucidium brodiei)
- Costa Rican Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium costaricanum)
- Cuban Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium siju)
- Guatemalan Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium cobanense)
- Javan Owlet (Glaucidium castanopterum)
- Least Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium minutissimum)
- Mountain Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium gnoma)
- Northern Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium californicum)
- **Pernambuco Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium mooreorum)
- Peruvian Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium peruanum)
- Pearl-Spotted Owlet (Glaucidium perlatum)
- Red-Chested Owlet (Glaucidium tephronotum)
- Yungas Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium bolivianum)
- Sjostedt’s Owlet (Glaucidium sjostedti)
- *Tamaulipas Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium sanchezi)
- Subtropical Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium parkeri)
- Tucuman Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium tucumanum)
These small true owls belonging to the genus Aegolius are a variety of screech owls. In the past, these owls were considered to be ill omens. Seeing one of them could mean that you were about to fall on ill luck. Even their genus name, which comes from Ancient Greek, meant “a bird of ill omen.”
Today, the birds are known for their haunting call and their small but distinctive forms instead of their tendency to bring good luck or bad. They are not typically very vocal birds, but their contact calls to warn about danger or defense are distinctive.
The Boreal Owl also goes by the name Tengmalm’s Owl. They are known as Boreal owls throughout their habitat in the northern regions of North America and as the Tengmalm’s owl in Europe. They received this name because of the Swedish naturalist, Peter Gustaf Tengmalm.
Although the Boreal owl has quite the spread of habitat and is classed as a Least Concern species due to its high population rates, humans rarely see them. These owls are shy and have an elusive reaction to any human activities. They also prefer inaccessible taiga forest habitat in the northern regions of the globe and are difficult to simply stumble across.
The Northern Saw-whet Owl is another of the better-known owls in this genus. One of the smallest owl species in North America, they are native to North America. Their migratory pattern carries them throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
These owls often live in dense thickets near the ground, closer to their preferred prey. Unfortunately, they are so small that they are frequently preyed on by other owl species and raptors.
Their call has been described as the sound of a saw getting sharpened on a whetstone. It is pretty distinctive, but only heard when the owls are looking for a mate in breeding season.
- Buff-Fronted Owl (Aegolius harrisii)
- Unspotted Saw-Whet Owl (Aegolius ridgwayi)
Eared owls include species of owls that have head tufts resembling ears similar to mammals. This genus includes owl species that you could find in almost every part of the world. Most of the owls in this group have large populations. They are a Least Concern species except for the Fearful Owl, which has a Vulnerable classification.
The Striped Owl is a beautiful owl that makes its home in Central and South America. They are a medium-sized species with cinnamon, black and white plumage covering their bodies in vertical and horizontal stripes.
These owls were initially classified in the Bubo genera when described by Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot in 1808. They have since moved to Asio due to DNA sequencing. However, they have kept their specific epithet clamator. In Latin, this means “shouter,” which gives you a good idea of the sound of their call.
The Short-Eared Owl has habitats on almost every continent, not including Australia and the Antarctic. Eleven subspecies are grouped under the primary species that give this owl such a large spread around the globe.
These owls are grassland species with little ear tufts barely separated in their head’s top, central portion. They prefer to live in the open country and can often be seen as sitting in a defensive pose.
The Northern Long-Eared Owl are also called the Long-Eared Owl, the Lesser Horned Owl or even the Cat Owl. They also have an extensive breeding range throughout most of Europe, the Palearctic and North America.
These owls are partial to semi-open habitats, such as the edge of woodlands. They prefer to hunt over the open ground but to keep their nests in wooded areas. These species are highly adaptive to a diversity of prey. One interesting fact about the Long-Eared Owl is that they don’t build their nests but commandeer previously built nests from other animals.
- African Long-Eared Owl (Asio abyssinicus)
- Madagascar Long-Eared Owl (Asio madagascariensis)
- Marsh Owl (Asio capensis)
- Stygian Owl (Asio stygius)
- *Fearful Owl (Asio solomonensis)
Scops owls are small, agile owl genera that are entirely restricted to Old World habitats. There are 57 species within this group, many of which are in vulnerable categories. Until recently, this genera included the American Screech owls. However, due to DNA sequencing research, these owls have now been separated into the Megascops genera, covered further down in the article.
These owls tend not to have a defined facial disk. Their ear tufts seem to flow upward from the feathering around their ears, giving them a squarish face instead of the rounded face shape of the Asio owls.
The Giant Scops-Owl is also known as the Lesser Eagle-Owl or the Mindanao Eagle-Owl. They are endemic to the Philippines and appeared on the 2004 stamp of the Philippines. These birds have almost any angry-looking face because of the contrasting plumage colors from dark brown to cream.
The Giant Scops Owl prefers to make its home in primary and secondary forests around 2,200 feet (670 meters) in altitude. However, due to the deforestation of its forest habitat and mining, these birds are now classified as a Vulnerable species.
The Serendib Scops Owl is one of the more recently discovered owls. They are the most recently discovered bird in Sri Lanka, first noted on January 23, 2001. They are the first to be discovered since 1868 when the Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush was described.
These owls do not have a large population since they seem only to be endemic to southern rain forests in Sri Lanka. They are Endangered due to the destruction of their already small habitat. Only 80 of them are known to exist. It is strictly nocturnal, hunting only in the first two hours of darkness, which is likely why they took so long to discover.
- Andaman Scops-Owl (Otus balli)
- **Anjouan Scops-Owl (Otus capnodes)
- **Annobon Scops-Owl (Otus feae)
- Arabian Scops-Owl (Otus pamelae)
- African Scops-Owl (Otus senegalensis)
- *Banggai Scops-Owl (Otus mendeni)
- *Biak Scops-Owl (Otus beccarii)
- Collared Scops-Owl (Otus lettia)
- *Enggano Scops-Owl (Otus enganensis)
- Eurasian Scops-Owl (Otus scops)
- **Flores Scops-Owl (Otus alfredi)
- **Grand Comoro Scops-Owl (Otus pauliani)
- Indian Scops-Owl (Otus bakkamoena)
- Japanese Scops-Owl (Otus semitorques)
- *Javan Scops-Owl (Otus angelinae)
- *Luzon Highland Scops-Owl (Otus longicornis)
- Luzon Lowland Scops-Owl (Otus megalotis)
- Madagascar Scops-Owl (Otus rutilus)
- *Mantanani Scops-Owl (Otus mantananensis)
- Mayotte Scops-Owl (Otus mayottensis)
- *Mentawai Scops-Owl (Otus mentawi)
- *Mindanao Highland Scops-Owl (Otus mirus)
- Mindanao Lowland Scops-Owl (Otus everetti)
- *Mindoro Scops-Owl (Otus mindorensis)
- **Moheli Scops-Owl (Otus moheliensis)
- Moluccan Scops-Owl (Otus magicus)
- Nicobar Scops-Owl (Otus alius)
- Mountain Scops-Owl (Otus spilocephalus)
- *Palawan Scops-Owl (Otus fuliginosus)
- Pallid Scops-Owl (Otus brucei)
- Oriental Scops-Owl (Otus sunia)
- *Pemba Scops-Owl (Otus pembaensis)
- Rajah Scops-Owl (Otus brookii)
- *Reddish Scops-Owl (Otus rufescens)
- *Rinjani Scops-Owl (Otus jolandae)
- *Ryukyu Scops-Owl (Otus elegans)
- Sandy Scops-Owl (Otus icterorhynchus)
- Sangihe Scops-Owl (Otus collari)
- *Sao Tome Scops-Owl (Otus hartlaubi)
- **Seychelles Scops-Owl (Otus insularis)
- *Visayan Scops-Owl (Otus nigrorum)
- Wallace’s Scops-Owl (Otus silvicola)
- Wetar Scops-Owl (Otus tempestatis)
- *White-Fronted Scops-Owl (Otus sagittatus)
- **Siau Scops-Owl (Otus siaoensis)
- *Simeulue Scops-Owl (Otus umbra)
- Socotra Scops-Owl (Otus socotranus)
- **Sokoke Scops-Owl (Otus ireneae)
- *Sula Scops-Owl (Otus sulaensis)
- Sulawesi Scops-Owl (Otus manadensis)
- Sunda Scops-Owl (Otus lempiji)
Although many species of owls have ear tufts and horns, this genera focuses on owls with smooth heads. These Earless Owls, or Wood Owls, are primarily forest-dwelling owls living in habitats throughout the world. They are more robust owls that tend to have medium to large builds.
Again, morbid legend surrounds the origin of these owls. The Latin genus name of Strix derives from the name of a mythical vampiric owl monster. This monster was believed to suck the blood of infants. Although the myth is just that, these owls are still imposing creatures with their stern faces and entirely nocturnal tendencies.
The Great Grey Owl is a very large owl, currently documented as the largest owl species in the world by length. They are also the only species within this genus found in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres.
Due to their nocturnal habits, large size, and ghostly coloration, these owls are sometimes called the Phantoms of the North or the spectral owl. They prefer to live in dense coniferous forests near and in the taiga. Although they prefer to live in areas with a cold climate, birds have survived in areas with extreme summer climates.
The Barred owl also has the names the Striped Owl or the Hoot Owl. They are a large North American owl species that are native to most of eastern North America. With climate change, the birds have expanded some of their range to the West Coast. Due to their predatory habits, they are considered invasive there.
These birds are gray overall with dark horizontal bands around their heads and necks and vertical striping on their underside. They prefer nesting in forested areas but are not too selective when it comes to their hunting grounds. Unfortunately, in areas where they are invasive, they are harmful to the populations of the Spotted Owl species.
- African Wood-Owl (Strix woodfordii)
- Chaco Owl (Strix chacoensis)
- Fulvous Owl (Strix fulvescens)
- Brown Wood-Owl (Strix leptogrammica)
- Desert Tawny Owl (Strix hadorami)
- Himalayan Owl (Strix nivicolum)
- Mottled Wood-Owl (Strix ocellata)
- Rufous-Legged Owl (Strix rufipes)
- *Rusty-Barred Owl (Strix hylophila)
- Omani Owl (Strix omanensis)
- *Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis)
- Spotted Wood-Owl (Strix seloputo)
- Tawny Owl (Strix aluco)
- Ural Owl (Strix uralensis)
The Mottled Owl has only recently been reclassified into the Strix genus, but some scientific authorities still contest this designation. They are medium-sized owls found throughout Central and South America, ranging from Mexico to Argentina. They look similar to the Barred owl but are much smaller.
These owls are territorial, making their home in jungles and dry forests at altitudes above 8,200 feet or 2,500 meters above sea level. They spend their days in dense vegetation, avoiding birds of prey that can attack them due to their smaller size.
- Black-and-White Owl (Ciccaba nigrolineata)
- Black-Banded Owl (Ciccaba huhula)
- Rufous-Banded Owl (Ciccaba albitarsis)
This genus covers two significant types of owls, the horned owls and the eagle owls. Bubo’s genus was the original Latin referring to the Eurasian Eagle-Owl, but now is a broader term for all the owls in the genus. More advanced DNA sequencing has expanded the number of owls placed in this genus.
There are quite a few well-known owl species that fall into this genus, including the beautiful Snowy Owl. These owls are also known as the Polar Owl, Arctic Owl, and White Owl. They are a large owl species that make their home exclusively in the Northern reaches of the globe into the Arctic. It is the only owl with primarily white plumage.
These owls also have unique hunting patterns. Often active during the day, particularly during the summertime, they can adapt their skills to almost any available prey. Searching for food, they are nomadic birds and are primarily migratory.
Once the global population was estimated at more than 200,000 birds, scientists currently estimate fewer than 100,000 remain, classifying them in the Vulnerable category. Climate change is the primary reason for decreasing populations.
The Great Horned Owl, or the Tiger owl, is a large owl native to the Americas. Their second common name comes from an early naturalists’ description of them being the “tiger of the air” or the “winged tiger.” These owls have large ear tufts that are more horns than ears. These birds have plumage generally colored for camouflage. They hunt any animal they can overtake, allowing them to earn the nickname “tiger”.
They have a vast range covering most of North America, and the north and central areas of South America. As a result, they fall into the Least Concern category. 1.6.3 Eurasian Eagle-Owl (Bubo bubo)
1.6.3 Eurasian Eagle-Owl (Bubo bubo)
These owls are one of the most well-known species of eagle-owl. One of the largest species in the world, they primarily reside in Eurasia. In Europe, these birds are also known as Uhu owls. They have distinctive ear tufts and dark mottled coloring over tawny feathers. Both their wings and tail are barred.
The Eurasian Eagle-Owl lives in various habitats, from mountainous regions to woodland edges and shrubby wetlands. There are 12 subspecies of Eurasian Eagle-Owls, keeping them one of the most widely distributed owl species throughout Eurasia.
- Akun Eagle-Owl (Bubo leucostictus)
- Barred Eagle-Owl (Bubo sumatranus)
- **Blakiston’s Eagle-Owl (Bubo blakistoni)
- Cape Eagle-Owl (Bubo capensis)
- Dusky Eagle-Owl (Bubo coromandus)
- Fraser’s Eagle-Owl (Bubo poensis)
- Greyish Eagle-Owl (Bubo cinerascens)
- Magellanic Horned Owl (Bubo magellanicus)
- Pharaoh Eagle-Owl (Bubo ascalaphus)
- *Philippine Eagle-Owl (Bubo philippensis)
- Rock Eagle-Owl (Bubo bengalensis)
- *Shelley’s Eagle-Owl (Bubo shelleyi)
- Spot-Bellied Eagle-Owl (Bubo nipalensis)
- Spotted Eagle-Owl (Bubo africanus)
- Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl (Bubo lacteus)
- Buffy Fish-Owl (Ketupa ketupu)
- Brown Fish-Owl (Ketupa zeylonensis)
- Tawny Fish-Owl (Ketupa flavipes)
- Pel’s Fishing-Owl (Scotopelia peli)
- Vermiculated Fishing-Owl (Scotopelia bouvieri)
- *Rufous Fishing-Owl (Scotopelia ussheri)
The name Boobok comes from the common names for owls throughout Australia and New Zealand. About 35 species are associated with this genus, which can be found in Asia and Australasia. Most of the species in this genus are either hawk-owls or boobooks. The only hawk-owl not in this genus is the Northern Hawk-Owl, Surnia ulula.
The naturalist Brian Houghton Hodgson first introduced this genus in 1837. The owls range in size from relatively small to medium. In addition, the plumage coloration varies significantly from species to species.
The Southern Boobook, or Australian Boobook, is also called the Mopoke. This species of owl is native to mainland Australia, New Guinea, Sunda Islands and Timor. First described in 1801 by John Latham, they used to be considered the same species as the Morepork of New Zealand. The two species descriptions split in 1999.
The name Boobook hearkens from the owl’s two-tone call that sounds like boo-book. They have primarily dark-brown plumage with significant pale spots. Their eyes range from grey-green to yellow-green, and they are generally nocturnal or crepuscular.
- Andaman Boobook (Ninox affinis)
- Barking Owl (Ninox connivens)
- Brown Boobook (Ninox scutulata)
- Bismarck Boobook (Ninox variegata)
- Buru Boobook (Ninox hantu)
- **Camiguin Boobook (Ninox leventisi)
- **Cebu Boobook (Ninox rumseyi)
- *Chocolate Boobook (Ninox randi)
- *Christmas Boobook (Ninox natalis)
- *Cinnabar Boobook (Ninox ios)
- *Guadalcanal Boobook (Ninox granti)
- Halmahera Boobook (Ninox hypogramma)
- Manus Boobook (Ninox meeki)
- Jungle Boobook (Ninox theomacha)
- *Least Boobook (Ninox sumbaensis)
- Luzon Boobook (Ninox philippensis)
- Hume’s Boobook (Ninox obscura)
- *Makira Boobook (Ninox roseoaxillaris)
- *Malaita Boobook (Ninox malaitae)
- Morepork (Ninox novaeseelandiae)
- *Mindoro Boobook (Ninox mindorensis)
- *New Britain Boobook (Ninox odiosa)
- Northern Boobook (Ninox japonica)
- *Mindanao Boobook (Ninox spilocephala)
- *Ochre-Bellied Boobook (Ninox ochracea)
- Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua)
- *Romblon Boobook (Ninox spilonotus)
- Rufous Owl (Ninox rufa)
- Seram Boobook (Ninox squamipila)
- *Sulu Boobook (Ninox reyi)
- *Sumba Boobook (Ninox rudolfi)
- Tanimbar Boobook (Ninox forbesi)
- Tasmanian Boobook (Ninox leucopsis)
- *Togian Boobook (Ninox burhani)
- West Solomons Boobook (Ninox jacquinoti)
Screech owls belong to the genus Megascops. There are 23 living species in this genus. This is the genus that researchers originally joined with the Scops owls in the Otus genus. However, they are now separated due to differences in biogeographical, behavioral, morphological and sophisticated DNA sequencing data.
Although Scops owls are all Old World owls, Screech owls are restricted to the Americas. By and large, the coloration of their plumage helps them to camouflage themselves with bark. The type species in this genus is the Megascops asio, or Eastern Screech Owl.
The Eastern Screech Owl is a small owl. They are relatively common throughout Eastern North America, Canada, and Mexico. Both of them are highly adapted to the wooded environments they call home.
They are also often confused with a Western Screech Owl, although other color morphs are unknown in Western Screech Owls. Luckily they have adapted to manmade developments as well. However, they typically avoid detection because of their strictly nocturnal habits.
- Peruvian Screech-Owl (Megascops roboratus)
- Tawny-Bellied Screech-Owl (Megascops watsonii)
- Tropical Screech-Owl (Megascops choliba)
- Vermiculated Screech-Owl (Megascops vermiculatus)
- Whiskered Screech-Owl (Megascops trichopsis)
- Western Screech-Owl (Megascops kennicottii)
- White-Throated Screech-Owl (Megascops albogularis)
- Yungas Screech-Owl (Megascops hoyi)
- Balsas Screech-Owl (Megascops seductus)
- Bare-Shanked Screech-Owl (Megascops clarkii)
- *Bearded Screech-Owl (Megascops barbarus)
- Black-Capped Screech-Owl (Megascops atricapilla)
- Cinnamon Screech-Owl (Megascops petersoni)
- *Cloudforest Screech-Owl (Megascops marshalli)
- *Colombian Screech-Owl (Megascops colombianus)
- Guatemalan Screech-Owl (Megascops guatemalae)
- Koepcke’s Screech-Owl (Megascops koepckeae)
- Long-Tufted Screech-Owl (Megascops sanctaecatarinae)
- Pacific Screech-Owl (Megascops cooperi)
- Puerto Rican Screech-Owl (Megascops nudipes)
- Rufescent Screech-Owl (Megascops ingens)
There are only three species of owls in this genus. They are called Spectacled Owls because of their facial pattern, a prominent spectacle pattern over their eyes. They are all only found in South America. There is also one fossil species associated with this genus. The fossil species comes from the Late Pleistocene around the area of Cueva de Paredones, Cuba.
The Spectacled Owl is the type species in this genus. They are a sizeable topical owl species native to the neotropics. They are a resident breeder throughout the forests of southern Mexico to Trinidad. In addition, they are native to Brazil and northwestern Argentina.
There are six subspecies, which are sometimes considered separate species until a more detailed analysis is complete. They prefer to live in dense areas of tropical rainforests where old growth is profuse.
- Tawny-Browed Owl (Pulsatrix koeniswaldiana)
- Band-Bellied Owl (Pulsatrix melanota)
The Northern Hawk-Owl (Surnia ulula) is the only species in the genus. They are medium-sized owls that live in the northern latitudes. It is non-migratory and typically stays in its breeding range. The Northern Hawk-Owl is one of the few owl species globally that is neither crepuscular nor nocturnal. They are only active during the day.
The Northern Hawk-Owl was first described by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in 1758. Their genus name has unknown etymology, likely unvented by Dumeril, one of the scientists to describe the species in 1805. Their specific epithet ulala is the Latin word for “screech owl” due to its abrasive call.
The genus Athene contains nine living species, but the scientific classification is widely debated. These adorable little owls have lightly feathered legs, small bodies, brown and white speckled with white eyebrows. These owls can be found on all continents except Australia and Antarctica.
The Burrowing Owl is a small owl with long legs because it tends to dig and burrow into the ground to protect its nests. You can find the burrowing owl in a wide range of habitats throughout North and South America. They live in rangelands, grasslands and deserts with low vegetation.
They nest in burrows, most of the time those that prairie dogs excavated. This species is also quite rare since they are active during the day. They do tend to avoid the midday heat and conduct most of their hunting from dusk to dawn so they can use excellent night vision. Their long legs have adapted to their preferred habitat so they can both run in brief sprints on the ground and fly.
The Spotted Owlet is a small owl found in tropical Asia and from mainland India into Southeast Asia. They typically live in open habitats, which include farmland and even human developments. However, they have adapted to live in cities and roost in small groups. They live on the inside in hollow trees and even cavities of rocks and buildings.
These small, stocky birds are grey to dark grey with bright yellow eyes. The species is nocturnal, although they can sometimes be seen during the day. Interestingly, nests near human developments show a high breeding success rate because of the increased availability of rodents.
- Little Owl (Athene noctua)
- White-Browed Owl (Athene superciliaris)
- **Forest Owlet (Heteroglaux blewitti)
The Crested Owl (Lophostrix cristata) is the only species of owl in the genus Lophostrix. They are resident birds of Central and South America. These medium-sized owls have recognizable, long whitish ear tufts. They inhabit the lowland rainforests and prefer to live in old-growth close to the water. They are strictly nocturnal species, which has very little known about their behavior other than that.
The Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi) is monotypic to the genus. They are small gray-brown birds that are about the size of a sparrow. These tiny birds live in the southern regions of the United States and into Mexico. The elf owl frequently lives in woodpecker holes dug into the saguaro cacti. They are nocturnal and feed on small insects.
The Flammulated Owl (Psiloscops flammeolus) is one of the smallest species of owl in North America. They are monotypic to their genus and were first described in 1852 by German naturalist Johann Jakob Kaup. They were initially classified under the binomial name Scops flammeola but were reclassified in 1899.
There is very little known about the Long-Whiskered Owlet (Xenoglaux loweryi). They are a vulnerable species due to their small assumed population. The genus name Xenoglaux means “strange owl.” It refers to the long facial feathers that extend past its head, making it appear to have long ear tufts.
The White-Faced Owls inhabit Africa.
The Northern white-faced owls are widely spread throughout most of Africa between the Sahara and the Equator. They have a notable defense mechanism. They flare their wings to appear larger, pulling their feathers inwards, elongating their body and narrowing their eyes to slits. It is thought to use the ability to camouflage itself, a posture known as a concealing posture.
- Southern White-faced Owl (Ptilopsis granti)
The Jamaican Owl (Pseudoscops grammicus) is medium-sized and tawn in color. They are endemic to the island of Jamaica. Even though they have a small endemic habitat, they are another Least Concern species.
The Papuan Boobook (Uroglaux dimorpha) is a medium-sized owl with a sleek, less-rounded head than most owls have. They generally live in lowland rainforests and savanna. They make their nests anywhere above 4,900 feet (1,500 meters) above sea level.
The Maned Owl (Jubula lettii) or the Akun Scops owl is endemic to Africa. They are the only species in this genus. The maned owl gets its name from the long, floppy tufts that stick out in place over their eyebrows.
Barn owls, or the family Tytonidae, is the other primary owl family other than the Strigidae family. There are far fewer species in this family. Most of these species have large heads, with heart-shaped faces characteristic of this owl family. They also tend to have strong legs with powerful talons.
The genus Tyto is the true barn owl. This genus also includes grass and masked owls. This genus was first introduced in 1828 by the Swedish naturalist Gustaf Johan Billberg.
The Greater Sooty owl is a medium to large owl that lives throughout Australia and New Guinea. They are nocturnal, and they roost in the large hollows of caves, trees and dense foliage. These owls are a Least Concern species but are rarely seen or heard since they prefer uninhabited forests.
The American Barn Owl is sometimes considered a subspecies of the Western Barn Owl. They have a habitat that ranges from North to South America. These owls have strikingly cream and heart-shaped faces. In addition, they have pale coloration and white freckles surrounded by a dark ring.
- Minahassa Masked Owl (Tyto inexspectata)
- Taliabu Masked Owl (Tyto nigrobrunnea)
- Moluccan Masked Owl (Tutyo sororcula)
- Manus Masked Owl (Tyto manusi)
- Golden Masked Owl (Tyto aurantia)
- Australian Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae)
- Sulawesi Masked Owl (Tyto rosenbergii)
- Red Owl (Tyto soumagnei)
- Western Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
- Eastern Barn Owl (Tyto javanica)
- Andaman Masked Owl (Tyto deroepstorffi)
- Ashy-Faced Owl (Tyto glaucops)
- African Grass Owl (Tyto capensis)
- Eastern Grass Owl (Tyto longimembris)
Bay owls are a genus of Old World Barn-Owls. Their defining characteristics include owls with smaller bodies compared to other barn owls. In addition, they have V-shaped faces that make them look pretty distinct compared to either owl species.
The Oriental Bay Owl is entirely nocturnal. They live throughout all of Southeast Asia and certain parts of India. Scientists have identified several subspecies and the classification of the Oriental Bay owl itself is still widely contested.
- Congo Bay Owl (Phodilus prigoginei)
- Sri Lanka Bay Owl (Phodilus assimilis)