Are owls rare in Virginia?

Answered by Jeremy Urbaniak

Owls are not considered rare in Virginia, as there are several species that can be found throughout the state. However, the abundance and visibility of owls can vary depending on the species and the time of year.

One of the most common and widespread owls in Virginia is the Eastern screech-owl, Megascops asio. These small owls are often found in wooded areas, and their distinctive trilling calls can be heard at night. While they may not be seen as frequently as other birds, their presence is fairly common in Virginia.

Another fairly common owl in Virginia is the Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus. These large owls are known for their deep hooting calls and their impressive size. They can be found in a variety of habitats, from forests to suburban areas, and are often seen perched high in trees during the day.

The Barred Owl, Strix varia, is another species that is relatively common in Virginia. These owls are known for their distinct “who-cooks-for-you” calls and are often found near swamps and wetlands. They are larger than screech-owls but smaller than Great Horned Owls, and their dark eyes and barred plumage make them easily recognizable.

While these three species are considered relatively common in Virginia, there are also several other owl species that are less frequently encountered. The Barn Owl, Tyto alba, for example, is a rare resident in the state, with only a few breeding pairs known to exist. The Northern Saw-whet Owl, Aegolius acadicus, is another species that is considered uncommon in Virginia, although it can be found in the state during the winter months.

In addition to resident owl species, Virginia also serves as a wintering ground for some owls that breed further north. The Short-eared Owl, Asio flammeus, and the Snowy Owl, Bubo scandiacus, are two examples of owls that can be found in Virginia during the winter months. These owls are considered more rare sightings, as they are only present in the state for part of the year.

While some owl species may be less common or only present during certain times of the year, owls can still be found throughout Virginia. With careful observation and a bit of luck, one may have the opportunity to spot these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.