Owls in Michigan – Owls are divided into two families: the true owls or typical owls, Strigidae; and the barn owls (Tytonidae), which include the bay-owl (Phodilus), the goat-horned owl (Neotelphusa), and the masked owl (Tyto). The Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy has placed barn owls in their own family: Tytonidae. However, one authority places them in expanded Caprimulgiformes along with the nightjars. Fossil evidence shows that all extant owl families descended from a common ancestor.
Owls are visually oriented birds, as all but the nocturnal great-horned owl have excellent night vision. Their eyes have two layers of the eyelid. It helps to protect their sensitive eyes from debris, dust, or insect stings while they are foraging in daylight and also helps them see in dim light.
Owls can see colors humans cannot and a broad spectrum of light. Owls are solitary birds, predominantly nocturnal. They prefer habitats where they can hide their food sources or roost at night. Some have adapted well to human environments, and humans have sometimes been helpful to owls, such as owls in Michigan, by providing easy-to-catch mice and other small rodents or nesting boxes.
A few species of owl are social; great-horned owls live in large groups, while the snowy owl is a rare northern species that live in small family groups, sometimes consisting of a pair with one or more young. Outside the breeding season, many species nest in holes, laying their eggs on the ground. There are different types of owls in Michigan; let’s discuss each in detail.
Different Owl Types found in Michigan:
Great Horned Owl:
Great Horned Owls are one of the giant owls in North America. Their wingspan is about 3 feet, and they weigh between 2-3 pounds. The Great horned owl has ear tufts or horn-shaped feathers on the top of their heads; they are white on top while the rest of the head is greyish with black spots. The body length is 2 feet with a wing span of 3 feet. They have smooth feathers covering their faces and bodies, but their eyes and other facial features are visible due to their silvery greyish blue feathers. Both males and females have markings on their bodies, like streaks around the neck and irregular streaks around the breast area, where females have nipples for feeding young.
Eastern Screech Owl:
Its talons measure up to 3.5 inches; they weigh between 1-1.5 pounds. Their body color is light grey with dark streaks around their bodies that bring out the streaked appearance of the owl’s body when flying at night. The face and eyes are surrounded by light greyish brown colored feathers that have white markings on the eyes, making them easy to spot in the early evening or night hours.
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The barred owl is a small nocturnal owl with a broad white band across the top of its head and a black line running across its face. It is called the facial disk. They average 2.3 feet in length with a 3-foot wingspan. Their color is greyish brown, which fades to rust-colored on their flanks, and this color contrasts against the white facial disk.
The body feathers have an orange-brown hue instead of black; these colors fade to grey on their undersides. The owl sounds in Michigan clearly show this city’s considerable density of owls. Its color ranges from pale buff to dark brown on top and whitish beneath, with a dark brown tail.
Hawk owls are a large owl species found in North America. They have a wingspan of over 3 feet and a body length of 2 feet. Their eyes are yellow with black pupils, and their beaks are greyish-white. They weigh between three and a half to four pounds. The hawk owl prefers open country with scattered trees. Hawk owls have light feathers that help camouflage them as they sit on the ground during the day or perch high up in trees and wait for prey during nighttime hours; they feed on mice, rabbits, shrews, and bats.
Barn owls are small, nocturnal birds sometimes seen hovering outside houses or roosting in barns at night. They have a body length of 2.5 feet and weigh around 1.75 pounds; the wingspan is 3.5 feet and a wingspan of 3 feet when they perch on a branch or post sticking straight up. The owls in Michigan have grey as the exterior color of the feathers, while their eyes are yellow, and the bill is black at both ends with red spots on it. The face is red, and the bottom of the beak is white with a black tip.
Northern Saw-Whet Owl:
It t has white wings and plumage. It is about 3 feet long, and its wingspan is about 3 feet. Its color ranges from pale buff to pale greyish brown on top and whitish beneath, with a dark brown tail. The head, throat, and belly are dull yellowish buff; some species have a dark mid-dorsal line which elongates in breeding adults.
They average 3 pounds, but their length varies from 2 to 2.5 feet. The beak is grey, becoming almost white in mature birds, and the iris is red or yellow. They are often mistaken for an owl species because they have ear tufts that look like horns coming out of their heads. They are commonly seen in farmlands, pastures, and open fields, looking for prey such as mice or small mammals; they feed between dusk and dawn.
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Northern Hawk Owl:
The Northern Hawk owl is a medium-sized owl that resides in North America. Its wingspan measures about 2 feet and is about 1 foot long, weighing about 3 pounds. Its plumage is spotted and barred in many different patterns, the breast is a darker brown color, and the upper half of its face is white. The bill is long and hooked at the end with a small spur. The eyes are yellow with black pupils. They can be found in open fields, forested areas, or near farmlands or urban areas.
People: The Short-eared owl is a small nocturnal bird with an ear tuft on the top of its head; the head and body are yellowish and have light brown coloring. The wingspan ranges from 1.8 to 2 feet long with an average weight of 500 grams or less; this is a tiny owl that lives in a wide variety of habitats, including forests, marshes, tundra, and taiga.
Western Screech Owl:
The western screech owl is a large nocturnal raptor across North America east of the Rocky Mountains. The length measures 18 inches; the wingspan is between 28-30 inches, and it has an average weight of 4.2 ounces. The western screech owl has a white head and body with brown or grey blotches on its back; its color ranges from light buff to dark brownish-grey above; it also has white undersides and a dark brown tail. They are tiny owls with ear tufts that resemble horns on the top of their heads.
Great Gray Owl:
The species average 3 feet in length with a wingspan of about 5 feet long; they weigh between 1.5-2 pounds on average. It has a dark facial disk and white spots on the throat and underparts. It eats almost any animal that moves in its territory, including other owls, birds, small mammals, reptiles, and rodents. Its eyesight is perfect; they have a large head and broad frontal wings giving them a vast field of view.
The snowy owl is a giant nocturnal raptor that can be found across all of North America, but primarily in the northern regions, from Canada to Alaska. Its body length measures 18 inches; the wingspan is between 28-30 inches, and an average weight of between 2 and 4 pounds. It has a dark facial disk and white spots on the throat and underparts.
The snowy owl in Michigan, also known as the white-tailed eagle, eats almost any animal that moves in its territory, including other owls, other birds, small mammals, reptiles, and rodents. Its eyesight is perfect; they have a large head and broad frontal wings giving them a vast field of view.