As the sun dips below the horizon, painting the Georgia sky with hues of orange and purple, a symphony of hoots begins to echo through the dense forests and sprawling farmlands. In this blog post, we’ll embark on a journey to explore the nocturnal world of owls in Georgia.
7 Types Of Owl Species In Georgia
1. Barred Owl(Tyto alba)
This beauty is easily recognizable with its heart-shaped face, pale body, and dark eyes. Most folks mistake it for a ghost with its white underparts and golden-brown upperparts. Its wingspan can reach up to 43 inches. Barn Owls are commonly found in open, lowland areas – think farmlands, marshes, and grasslands.
They’re not much of city dwellers, preferring quieter rural areas. It’s called a ‘Barn’ Owl for a reason, right? Old barns, deserted buildings, and even church steeples make perfect nesting spots for these guys.
2. Barred Owl (Strix varia)
Barred Owl, This one’s a bit of a hoot with its distinctive call that sounds like, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” With its dark brown eyes, rounded head with no ear tufts, and a pattern of bars on its chest, this owl is a sight to behold. In Georgia, these owls love the woodlands. Specifically, mature forests near water bodies are their favorite hangouts.
They’ve got a penchant for deciduous forests and mixed woodlands, and you can often find them nesting in tree cavities. If you’re hiking through the woods or canoeing down the rivers of Georgia, listen for their distinctive call – it could lead you straight to them!
3. Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)
Burrowing Owl, Don’t let its size fool you – this small, long-legged owl is full of character. It has bright yellow eyes, a rounded head with no ear tufts, and spotted brown and white feathers. Unique among owls, it prefers to hang out on the ground rather than in trees.
Now, Burrowing Owls aren’t typically found in Georgia, they’re more common in the western and southwestern parts of the U.S. They like open areas like grasslands or prairies and, as their name suggests, they nest in burrows in the ground. If you’re lucky, you might just spot one on a trip out west!
4. Eastern Screech-Owl (Megascops asio)
Eastern Screech-Owl, This little guy might be small, but it’s got a personality that’s larger than life. It’s about the size of a pint glass and comes in two colors: a gray phase and a reddish-brown phase. One look at those yellow eyes and you’ll be completely captivated.
They’re quite adaptable and can thrive in a variety of habitats including forests, woodlands, and even suburban areas. They’re pretty comfortable around humans, so don’t be surprised if you find one in your backyard or local park. Listen out for their distinctive trilling call – it’s the perfect soundtrack for an evening stroll in Georgia.
5. Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
Great Horned Owl, one of the most powerful birds of prey in North America. With its large size, long tufts that resemble horns, and deep, hooting call, you can’t miss this one. Its piercing yellow eyes seem to see right into your soul, don’t they?
In Georgia, these owls are found throughout the state. They’re not picky about their homes, and you can find them in forests, swamps, orchards, and even in cities. They’re pretty comfortable both in the lowland forests and the mountains.
6. Long-eared Owl (Asio otus)
Long-eared Owl, With its long ear tufts, orange face, and yellow eyes, this owl has an almost cat-like appearance. Despite the name, those aren’t actually its ears – they’re feather tufts that help with camouflage.
As for their distribution in Georgia, Long-eared Owls are quite secretive and not commonly seen. They prefer dense forests and woodlands, especially near open fields or meadows. While they are not as widespread as some other species, with a bit of luck and patience, you might just spot one.
7. Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)
Northern Saw-whet Owl, This tiny owl is about the size of a robin, with a cat-like face, big yellow eyes, and a brown body speckled with white. Its high-pitched call sounds like a saw being sharpened, hence the name.
As for where to find these cuties in Georgia, it’s a bit of a challenge. They’re primarily found in dense forests, often in the northern parts of North America. In Georgia, they’re uncommon and typically seen only during migration or in winter.
Popular Owl Spotting Locations In Georgia
Georgia’s Colonial Coast Birding Trail
The Colonial Coast Birding Trail stretches along the stunning Georgia coastline. While exploring the sandy beaches and immersing yourself in Georgia’s rich colonial history, keep your eyes peeled for a diverse range of bird species. The trail hosts over 300 species of birds, accounting for approximately 75% of the total species found in Georgia.
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is a must-visit for anyone interested in bird watching. Recognized by the Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area, this location is a favorite stopover for migrating raptors, which means you might just get lucky and spot an owl or two. The mixed forests of the mountain provide an excellent habitat for owl species such as the Barred Owl and the Great Horned Owl .
Newman Wetlands Center and E.L. Huie Ponds
The Newman Wetlands Center and the nearby E.L. Huie Ponds are an excellent choice for birders who appreciate variety. These locations are particularly suitable for spotting waterfowl, but they also offer a good chance to spot owls, particularly around dusk. The wetlands and surrounding wooded areas are attractive to species like the Barred Owl, which can often be heard calling after sundown.
Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve
Decatur’s Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve is a wildlife-rich area featuring wetlands, beaver ponds, pine groves, and floodplains. Aside from offering a chance to spot a variety of animals, it’s also an excellent location for bird watching. The preserve’s diverse habitats make it a potential home for a variety of owl species.
Phinizy Swamp Nature Park
Phinizy Swamp Nature Park is Augusta’s crown jewel for bird watching. The swamp is a haven for ducks, summer birds, and waders, offering great views all year round. While the focus is on water birds, don’t be surprised if you hear the distinctive hoot of an owl at dusk. The swamp and surrounding forests provide suitable nesting and hunting grounds for several owl species.
Chattahoochee Nature Center
Located just off the Chattahoochee River, the Chattahoochee Nature Center is perfect for spotting spring and fall migrants as well as common yard birds. It’s also a good place to listen for the calls of owls in the early morning or late evening. The center’s diverse habitats, including woodlands and wetlands, provide a suitable home for a variety of owl species, such as the Barred Owl and the Eastern Screech-O-Owl.
Best Times And Seasons For Spotting Owls
Owls are primarily nocturnal, which means they’re most active during the night. The best times to spot owls are generally during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk when they are on the move for hunting. As for the best seasons for observing owls, winter is often the top choice among birdwatchers.
In the colder months, the leaves have fallen from the trees, making it easier to spot owls roosting. Additionally, winter is the breeding season for many owl species, meaning they are more active and vocal, making their haunting hoots more detectable. Spring can also be a great time for owl-spotting, as this is when owlets (baby owls) start to leave the nest.