Owls are fascinating creatures that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. In Vermont, you can find 11 different species of owls, including the Great Horned Owl, the Barred Owl, the Eastern Screech Owl, and the Snowy Owl. These owls all have different habitats and prey preferences. Stay tuned for a hoot of a time!
10 Types Of Owls In Vermont
1. Barred Owl
The Barred Owl, a true spectacle of nature, is one of the most common owl species found in the lush forests of Vermont. Known for its distinctive “Who cooks for you?” call, this owl is a delight to both see and hear. With its large, round head, soulful brown eyes, and unique pattern of vertical brown bars on its chest, the Barred Owl is easily identifiable.
These owls prefer mature forests with a mix of deciduous trees and evergreens, often near water bodies. They are known for their incredible adaptability, nesting in tree cavities, old nests of other birds, or even on the ground. As nocturnal hunters, Barred Owls feast on a variety of prey, including small mammals, birds, and amphibians.
2. Great Horned Owl
The Great Horned Owl, often referred to as the ‘tiger of the skies’, is another magnificent species that graces the Vermont landscape. This owl is easily recognizable by its large size, ear tufts that resemble horns, and piercing yellow eyes. Great Horned Owls are incredibly versatile, inhabiting a range of environments from dense forests to open fields.
They are formidable predators, with a diet that includes rodents, rabbits, and even other owls. Their deep, resonating hoots echo through the night, adding a sense of mystery to their surroundings. In Vermont, the sight of a Great Horned Owl perched high on a tree, silhouetted against the moonlit sky, is a sight that leaves birdwatchers and nature lovers in awe.
3. Eastern Screech-Owl
The Eastern Screech-Owl, despite its name, doesn’t screech. Instead, it emits a series of soft, melodious trills that blend seamlessly with the nighttime chorus of Vermont’s forests. This small owl, with its compact size and ear tufts, comes in two color morphs – gray and rufous. Eastern Screech-Owls are masters of camouflage.
During the day, they roost in tree cavities or nest boxes, their plumage blending perfectly with the bark. At night, they emerge to hunt, feeding on a variety of prey from insects to small mammals. The Eastern Screech-Owl’s enchanting calls and elusive nature make it a cherished part of Vermont’s rich birdlife.
4. Snowy Owl
The Snowy Owl, with its stunning white plumage and captivating golden eyes, is a winter visitor to Vermont. This Arctic native is a sight to behold against the snowy landscapes, providing a unique birdwatching experience. The males are almost entirely white, while the females and young owls have dark bars interspersed with their white feathers.
Snowy Owls prefer open habitats like fields and marshes, where they perch on low posts or on the ground. They are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day, which is a treat for birdwatchers. Their diet primarily consists of small mammals, particularly lemmings and voles. The arrival of the Snowy Owl in Vermont is always an exciting event.
5. Northern Saw-whet Owl
The Northern Saw-whet Owl is one of Vermont’s smallest owls, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in charm. This owl, with its oversized head, yellow eyes, and white facial disk, is named for its call, which resembles the sound of a saw being sharpened. Northern Saw-whet Owls inhabit dense forests, where they nest in tree cavities.
They are nocturnal and elusive, making them a delightful find for birdwatchers. Their diet consists mainly of small mammals and insects. The Northern Saw-whet Owl’s endearing appearance and enchanting calls make it a beloved part of Vermont’s owl population.
6. Long-eared Owl
The Long-eared Owl, named for its long ear tufts, is a secretive owl species found in Vermont. This medium-sized owl has a slender body, orange facial disk, and bright yellow eyes. Its cryptic plumage allows it to blend seamlessly with the trees. Long-eared Owls prefer dense forests with nearby open spaces for hunting.
They are nocturnal and roost in dense foliage during the day, making them challenging to spot. Their diet includes small mammals and birds. The elusive nature of the Long-eared Owl adds an element of excitement to birdwatching in Vermont, making every sighting a memorable event.
7. Short-eared Owl
The Short-eared Owl is a medium-sized owl with a round head and short ear tufts that are often not visible. This owl is known for its distinctive flight pattern, which includes buoyant, moth-like wingbeats. Short-eared Owls inhabit open areas like fields and marshes, where they can be seen hunting during the day, especially at dawn and dusk.
They feed on small mammals and birds. In Vermont, the sight of a Short-eared Owl floating over an open field as the sun sets is a spectacle that captures the heart of every nature lover.
8. Boreal Owl
The Boreal Owl, also known as the Tengmalm’s Owl, is a small, elusive owl species that occasionally visits the northern parts of Vermont. With its round head, yellow eyes, and white-spotted plumage, this owl is a delightful sight for those lucky enough to spot it. Boreal Owls prefer coniferous forests, where they nest in tree cavities.
They are nocturnal and secretive, making them a challenging but rewarding find for birdwatchers. Their diet primarily consists of small mammals, particularly voles. The Boreal Owl’s rare appearances in Vermont add an element of surprise and excitement to the state’s birdwatching scene.
9. Great Gray Owl
The Great Gray Owl, with its impressive size and striking appearance, is a rare and cherished sight in Vermont. This owl is known for its large, rounded head, concentric rings around its yellow eyes, and a “bow tie” marking on its throat. Great Gray Owls inhabit dense forests near open meadows, where they hunt during the day.
They feed on small mammals, which they locate under the snow using their exceptional hearing. The sight of a Great Gray Owl in Vermont is a momentous event, creating unforgettable memories for birdwatchers and nature lovers.
10. Northern Hawk Owl
The Northern Hawk Owl, as its name suggests, has a hawk-like appearance and behavior. This medium-sized owl has a long tail, yellow eyes, and a white facial disk with a dark border. It is one of the few owl species that are active during the day.
Northern Hawk Owls inhabit the edges of forests and open areas, where they perch on treetops or poles to hunt. Their diet includes small mammals and birds. In Vermont, the Northern Hawk Owl’s distinctive appearance and diurnal habits make it a fascinating species for birdwatchers to observe.
Popular Owl Spotting Places In Vermont
Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area
Located in Addison, the Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area is a haven for birdwatchers. This expansive area of wetlands and fields is a popular spot for spotting Short-eared Owls, especially during the winter months. The open landscapes provide excellent visibility, making it easier to spot these owls in flight during their dawn and dusk hunting sessions.
Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge
Situated on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge is a birdwatcher’s paradise. The diverse habitats within the refuge attract a variety of owl species, including the Barred Owl and the Great Horned Owl. The quiet trails through the refuge offer serene birdwatching experiences.
Green Mountain National Forest
The vast Green Mountain National Forest is home to several owl species, including the Northern Saw-whet Owl and the Eastern Screech-Owl. The dense forests provide ideal roosting and nesting sites for these owls, making this national forest a must-visit for owl enthusiasts.
Camel’s Hump State Park
Camel’s Hump State Park, with its diverse habitats of forests and open meadows, is a great place to spot owls like the Long-eared Owl and the Great Horned Owl. The park’s trails offer birdwatchers the opportunity to immerse themselves in nature while looking for these magnificent birds.
Lake Champlain Islands
The Lake Champlain Islands are a hotspot for birdwatching, with the open landscapes providing excellent opportunities to spot Snowy Owls during the winter. The islands’ unique location also attracts other owl species, making it a rewarding destination for birdwatchers.
The Northeast Kingdom, covering the northeastern corner of Vermont, is known for its pristine landscapes and rich biodiversity. Here, birdwatchers can spot the elusive Boreal Owl and the Northern Hawk Owl. The region’s vast forests and open spaces provide ideal habitats for these species.
Rutland County, with its mix of forests, fields, and wetlands, is a great place to spot a variety of owl species. The county’s rural landscapes are particularly good for spotting Barred Owls and Great Horned Owls, making it a favorite destination for birdwatchers.
Best Time And Season For Spot Owls In Vermont
Owl spotting in Vermont can be a rewarding experience year-round, but certain times and seasons offer unique opportunities to see these magnificent birds. The winter months, particularly from December to February, are an excellent time to spot Snowy Owls. These Arctic visitors are easier to see against the snowy landscapes, and they are more active during the day compared to other owl species.
Spring, from March to May, is the breeding season for many owls, including the Barred Owl and the Great Horned Owl. During this time, their calls are more frequent, making it easier to locate them. The summer months are a great time to spot owls like the Northern Saw-whet Owl and the Eastern Screech-Owl, especially during the twilight hours when these nocturnal birds become active. Regardless of the season, early morning and late evening are generally the best times to spot owls, as this is when they are most active.