France, a country renowned for its rich biodiversity, is home to a diverse array of owl species, each with its unique charm and mystique. From the silent flight of the Barn Owl to the piercing gaze of the Eurasian Eagle Owl, these nocturnal raptors are an integral part of France’s natural heritage. Stay tuned as we unravel the mysteries of the Owls of France.
12 Types of Owl In France
1. Barn Owl
The Barn Owl, known scientifically as Tyto alba, is a captivating sight in the French countryside. This nocturnal raptor, with its heart-shaped face and ghostly white underparts, is a symbol of the rural landscapes of France. The Barn Owl is a silent hunter, using its exceptional hearing to locate prey even in complete darkness. Its diet primarily consists of small mammals, particularly rodents, making it a natural pest controller.
Barn Owls prefer to nest in old buildings, barns, and hollow trees, hence their name. They are widely distributed across France, making them a common sight for those who venture out after dusk. Despite their widespread presence, these owls are often elusive, adding to their mystique.
2. Short-eared Owl
The Short-eared Owl, or Asio flammeus, is a distinctive bird of prey found in the open country of France. Unlike many of its counterparts, the Short-eared Owl can often be seen hunting during the day, especially in winter. Its ‘short ears’, which are actually tufts of feathers, and yellow eyes give it a unique appearance.
These owls are nomadic, often moving around in search of food. Their diet consists mainly of small mammals, but they are known to take birds as well. The Short-eared Owl’s flight is buoyant and moth-like, a spectacle to behold against the backdrop of the French skies.
3. Long-eared Owl
The Long-eared Owl, Asio otus, is a secretive bird, often hidden away in the dense forests of France. As the name suggests, this owl is characterized by its long ear tufts, which are raised or lowered depending on its mood. The Long-eared Owl’s cryptic plumage allows it to blend seamlessly into its surroundings, making it a master of camouflage.
These owls are primarily nocturnal, hunting under the cover of darkness. Their diet consists of small mammals, birds, and insects. The hooting call of the Long-eared Owl, echoing through the silent night, is a sound that resonates with the wild beauty of the French forests.
4. Little Owl
The Little Owl, Athene noctua, is a delightful sight in the French countryside. This small, compact owl is known for its fierce expression, with bright yellow eyes and a stern, frowning brow. Despite its size, the Little Owl is full of character and is known for its bold and curious nature.
The Little Owl is a versatile bird, inhabiting a range of environments from farmland to woodland edges. It feeds on a variety of prey, including insects, earthworms, and small mammals. One unique aspect of the Little Owl is its diurnal behaviour, often seen active during the day, especially at dawn and dusk.
5. Scops Owl
The Scops Owl, Otus scops, is a small owl species found in the warmer regions of France. This owl is known for its distinctive call, a soft, repetitive whistle that fills the night air. The Scops Owl is a master of disguise, its grey-brown plumage blending perfectly with the tree bark.
Scops Owls are nocturnal hunters, feeding primarily on insects. They are migratory birds, spending their winters in Africa and returning to France for the breeding season. The Scops Owl’s ability to adapt to different environments is a testament to the resilience of nature.
6. Boreal Owl
The Boreal Owl, Aegolius funereus, also known as the Tengmalm’s Owl, is a secretive bird of the French alpine forests. This medium-sized owl is characterized by its large, round head and yellow eyes, giving it a distinctive appearance.
The Boreal Owl is a nocturnal predator, feeding on small mammals and birds. Its haunting call, a series of soft, low hoots, is a characteristic sound of the alpine forests. The Boreal Owl’s presence in the high-altitude habitats of France highlights the country’s diverse range of ecosystems.
7. Eurasian Pygmy Owl
The Eurasian Pygmy Owl, Glaucidium passerinum, is the smallest owl found in France. Despite its diminutive size, this owl is a fierce predator. Its piercing yellow eyes and rounded head give it a distinctive appearance that is both charming and intriguing.
The Eurasian Pygmy Owl is primarily found in the coniferous forests of France. It is a diurnal hunter, feeding on a variety of prey including small birds, mammals, and insects. The owl’s small size allows it to move swiftly between the trees, making it a skilled and elusive hunter.
8. Great Grey Owl
The Great Grey Owl, Strix nebulosa, is one of the most majestic owls found in France. Its large size, distinctive facial disc, and piercing yellow eyes make it an awe-inspiring sight. The Great Grey Owl is a symbol of the wild and untamed beauty of the French wilderness.
This owl is primarily found in the dense forests of France, where it hunts at night for small mammals. Its soft, deep hoots echo through the forest, adding to the mystique of the night.
9. Spotted Owl
The Spotted Owl, Strix occidentalis, is a rare and elusive bird in France. This medium-sized owl is known for its dark brown plumage, speckled with white spots, giving it its name. The Spotted Owl’s dark, round eyes give it a distinctive and captivating appearance.
The Spotted Owl is a nocturnal hunter, feeding primarily on small mammals. It inhabits the old-growth forests of France, where it blends seamlessly into the surroundings. The owl’s soft, four-note hoot is a characteristic sound of the French forests at night.
10. Northern Hawk Owl
The Northern Hawk Owl, Surnia ulula, is a unique species that combines the characteristics of hawks and owls, hence its name. This medium-sized owl is known for its long tail and hawk-like shape, making it a distinctive sight in the French skies.
The Northern Hawk Owl is primarily found in the boreal forests of France. Unlike many other owl species, it is often active during the day, hunting for small mammals and birds. Its keen eyesight and swift flight make it a skilled hunter, capable of catching prey even in bright daylight.
11. Barred Owl
The Barred Owl, Strix varia, is a large owl known for its distinctive hooting call, often described as sounding like “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” This owl’s dark eyes and barred plumage give it a unique and captivating appearance.
The Barred Owl is primarily found in the mature forests of France, where it hunts at night for small mammals, birds, and amphibians. Its soft, rhythmic hoots add a touch of mystery to the French forests at night.
12. Great Horned Owl
The Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus, is one of the most powerful owls found in France. Its large size, tufted ears, and piercing yellow eyes make it an awe-inspiring sight. The Great Horned Owl is a symbol of the wild and untamed beauty of the French wilderness.
This owl is primarily found in the mixed forests of France, where it hunts at night for a variety of prey, including mammals, birds, and reptiles. Its deep, resonating hoots echo through the forest, adding to the mystique of the night.
Popular Owl Spotting Locations In France
The Camargue, a natural region located in the south of France, is a haven for birdwatchers. Its vast wetlands and salt pans provide the perfect habitat for a variety of owl species, including the Short-eared Owl and the Barn Owl. The tranquil setting and the rich biodiversity make The Camargue a must-visit location for owl spotting in France.
Pyrénées National Park
Nestled between France and Spain, the Pyrénées National Park is home to the elusive Boreal Owl and the Eurasian Pygmy Owl. The park’s diverse habitats, ranging from lush forests to high mountain peaks, offer a unique birdwatching experience. The Pyrénées National Park is a testament to France’s commitment to preserving its natural heritage.
Cévennes National Park
Cévennes National Park, located in the mountainous region of southern France, is a hotspot for the Great Horned Owl and the Scops Owl. The park’s dense forests and rugged terrain provide the perfect backdrop for owl spotting. A visit to Cévennes National Park promises a captivating encounter with France’s nocturnal raptors.
Morvan Regional Natural Park
Morvan Regional Natural Park, located in the heart of Burgundy, is a haven for the Barred Owl and the Great Grey Owl. The park’s mixed forests and serene lakes provide an ideal habitat for these owls. Morvan Regional Natural Park is a must-visit for those seeking to explore the enchanting world of owls.
Brière Regional Natural Park
Brière Regional Natural Park, known for its vast marshlands, is a prime location for spotting the Short-eared Owl and the Barn Owl. The park’s unique landscape and rich biodiversity make it a birdwatcher’s paradise. Brière Regional Natural Park is a testament to the diverse ecosystems of France.
Brenne Regional Natural Park
Brenne Regional Natural Park, known as the land of a thousand lakes, is home to the Long-eared Owl and the Little Owl. The park’s diverse habitats, from wetlands to forests, provide an ideal environment for these owls. Brenne Regional Natural Park offers a unique opportunity to explore the fascinating world of owls in France.
Best Times And Seasons For Spotting Owls
Generally, owls are most active during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk. These are the times when many species begin their hunt for food, making it an ideal time for observation.
Seasonally, the breeding period, which typically occurs in late winter and early spring, is a prime time for owl watching. In the summer, when owlets start to leave the nest, is another excellent time for observation.