Facts About Owls in North Carolina

Owls can be found all over the state of North Carolina.
••• north carolina outline image by Kim Jones from Fotolia.com

North Carolina supports a lot of biodiversity because of the state's variety of ecosystems. There are mountains, shorelines and temperate forests available to provide homes for a variety of different animals. Owls are nocturnal birds of prey, and occupy most of these ecosystems, except for some near the ocean. There are four common species of owls found in North Carolina, all mainly living in forested areas.


The prey of Screech owls includes rodents.
••• Maslof13/iStock/Getty Images

The four most common species of owls found in North Carolina are the great horned owl, the barred owl, the barn owl and the screech owl. The great horned owl is widely distributed across the state, mainly inhabiting fields and forests. The barn owl is named for its interest in living in barn-like enclosures and nest boxes. Barred owls like hardwood forests near water. Screech owls may be found in any of these areas. The prey that they eat depends on the owl's size, but it includes a variety of rodents, small reptiles and occasionally fish.

Great Horned Owl

Large yellow eyes and ear tufts make the great horned owl easy to identify.
••• great horned owl image by Neelrad from Fotolia.com

The great horned owl is the largest owl found in North Carolina. They are known by the tufts on the top of their heads that resemble horns or ears. They actually do not help with hearing at all, but change orientation based on the mood of the owl. They have a wingspan of over 4 feet wide, and have tufts of feathers on their feet. They are powerful hunters, and have made enemies with poultry farmers as they've been known to take fowl for prey. They have also taken domestic cats as prey.

Screech Owl

Screech owls look similar to great horned owls, only much smaller.
••• Little Owl image by john barber from Fotolia.com

The screech owl is one of the smallest owls in North Carolina at only about 9 inches in length. They look similar to the great horned owl, mainly due to their ear tufts. People commonly think that a screech owl is a baby great horned owl. Screech owls are found in two distinct morphs--red and gray. They make a notable cooing sound that differs from the common hooting people associate with owls.

Barred Owl

Barred owls are named for the striped pattern on their bodies.
••• owl image by Henryk Olszewski from Fotolia.com

Barred owls are large, but not as large as great horned owls. They are gray and white, with stripes, which is where their name comes from. They do not have ear tufts. These owls are found in the moist humid environments in North Carolina, including swamps and river bottoms. They are often seen by humans, because they have adapted to live near cities and towns. They nest high in trees, and often will take over old abandoned hawks' nests as their own.

Barn Owl

The heart-shaped face of the barn owl is distinct from other North Carolina owls.
••• owl image by vashistha pathak from Fotolia.com

Barn owls have a distinct look about them. Their faces are heart-shaped with no ear tufts, giving them the nickname monkey-faced owl. They have long exposed legs. The call of a barn owl is a loud hiss and shriek, again different from the typical hooting associated with owls. Barn owls are known for nesting in barns, silos and other man-made structures. The nests are reused by different barn owls every season.

Related Articles

What Type of Ecosystem Does an Owl Live in?
Different Types of Hawks
What Predatory Wild Animals Are Local in Pennsylvania?
Birds That Sound Like Owls
What Type of Owl Eats Snakes?
What Kind of Sound Does an Owl Make at Night?
What Is the Difference Between a Badger and a Wolverine?
Differences Between Ferrets, Stoats and Weasels
Bird Information for Kids
Information on Bobcats for Kids
Wild Birds That Are Native to West Virginia
What Do Owls Eat?
Why Do Squirrels Squawk in Trees?
What Is the Difference Between Lizards & Geckos?
Owls of the Northeast
Predators of the Southern Flying Squirrel
Animals in the Mediterranean Forest
What Enemies Do Raccoons Have?
Boa Constrictor Facts for Kids
The Differences Between a Crow & a Grackle