10 Owls In New Jersey – Common Owls In NJ + Photos and Owl Calls

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Owls in New Jersey are some of the most fascinating and mysterious birds, due to their nocturnal habits and loner lifestyle. But the fact that many of us do not get to see owls does not mean we should not know more about them.

This article will discuss owls in New Jersey. What species of owls live in this great state? How big do they grow? Where in New Jersey can you find them?

With all the excitement about owls in New Jersey, this article will make it easy for you to recognize and know what sort of owls you might be able to spot. It is like a who is who of owl celebrities in New Jersey.

One of the beauties of being an expert birder or someone interested in birds is that it helps pass along nature appreciation to others.

There are several owl species that frequent New Jersey. Let us take a look at the most common ones. It is also interesting to note that some of these owls actually make their homes in New Jersey, while others just like to visit the state on a regular basis. If you are not one of the dogs or cats lovers, then you should at least try to see these owls.

Common Owls In New Jersey

You may be surprised to find out just how many species of owls in NJ. All species of the big O’s regularly breed and/or spend time in New Jersey, so you are almost guaranteed to get a sighting if you look hard enough.

Here is the list of the most common Owls in New Jersey:

  1. Eastern Screech-Owl
  2. Great Horned Owls
  3. The Barn Owl
  4. Northern Saw-whet Owl
  5. Snowy Owls
  6. Long-eared Owl
  7. Short-eared Owl
  8. Barred Owl
  9. Boreal Owl
  10. Northern Hawk-Owl

1. Eastern Screech-Owl

Owls In New Jersey Eastern Screech - Owl
Eastern Screech – Owl – Owls In New Jersey

If you hear a spooky sound in the night, it could be this owl. These birds are found east of the Rockies in woods, parks and suburbs. They are so good at hiding out during the day that they have even been known to nest in backyards with nest boxes.

The Eastern Screech-Owl is one of the owls in New Jersey that is supremely camouflaged and exceedingly small. The pint-size owl is found east of the Rockies, where it is spotted near buildings, cemeteries and other wooded places, in addition to backyards.

Listen for it uttering a mournful mew during the night. On the prowl at dusk, it eats voles and other small mammals that often hide under leaves or in crevices.

With pointy ears, eyes that glow red with reflected light and a voice like Edward Scissorhands fronting an orchestra, the Eastern Screech-Owl may look like it belongs in a Tim Burton movie.

MEASUREMENT

Both Sexes

  • Length: 6.3-9.8 in (16-25 cm)
  • Weight: 4.3-8.6 oz (121-244 g)
  • Wingspan: 18.9-24.0 in (48-61 cm)

A small member of the “true owl” family, the Screech is found from the eastern US to southern Canada, and from Mexico to Guatemala. Do not worry though; this spooky bird will not haunt your dreams.

Despite their spooky makeup, scritches are mostly harmless. They catch insects, mice, and other vermin for dinner.

Backyard Tips For Eastern Screech-Owl

The eastern screech-owl is a highly territorial bird that does not seek out the company of birds from other territories. The Eastern Screech-Owl does not mind living near people, and even readily accepts a nest box.

It can be relatively easy to attract screech-owls to nest boxes if you get them up early (before the breeding season) and make sure to provide a guard for the nest entrance, as high predation rates on eggs and young occur with this species.

Fun Facts About Eastern Screech-Owl

  • Eastern Screech-Owl are smaller than females and are better hunters and fliers.
  • If you have small birds at your backyard, they can help you find Eastern Screech-Owl during the day. Just listen to titmice, chickadees and Blue Jays commotion as they may be mobbing a screech-owl
  • Eastern Screech-Owl Regurgitates the feather, fur and bones of the prey they have eaten in an oval pellet, once or twice a day.
  • These bird pairs are usually monogamous and always remain together for life.
  • The oldest Eastern Screech-Owl was at least fourteen years, six months old

2. Great Horned Owls

Great Horned Owls
Great Horned Owls – Owls in NJ

With its bulging eyes, tufts of feathers that look like ears, and fierce territorial hoot, the Great Horned Owl is a fearsome bird and one of the owls in NJ.

The Great Horned Owl is the owl to have around if you have mice in your walls or roof, a rat problem in the barn, rabbits and moles eating your garden—or pesky little scorpions running rampant in your yard.

Not only does it sneak up on its victims, catching them by surprise, but it can also pounce on prey bigger than itself.

MEASUREMENTS

Both Sexes

  • Length: 18.1-24.8 in (46-63 cm)
  • Weight: 32.1-88.2 oz (910-2500 g)
  • Wingspan: 39.8-57.1 in (101-145 cm)

Meet Great Horned Owl, one of the most common owls in North America! With a diet consisting mostly of small rodents like mice and voles, some bird species like sparrows and grouses, and even the occasional shrew.

This large and powerful bird has its home in deserts, backyards, wetlands, forests, grasslands, cities and almost any other semi-open habitat between the tropics and the Arctic.

Backyard Tips For Great Horned Owl

Think of yourself as a matchmaker for one of nature’s most dedicated parents. Great horned owls usually make their homes in cavities in trees, but they are on the lookout for attractive real estate with good acoustics.

You can help them out by building a nest box that mimics the look and feel of abandoned woodpecker holes or natural hollows in trees.

Fun Facts About Great Horned Owl

  • Great Horned Owls are fierce predators that can take on large preys such as Peregrine Falcons, Osprey, Prairie Falcon, etc.
  • It uses its strong talon to grip large prey spine.
  • The oldest Great Horned Owl was twenty-eight years old

3. The Barn Owl

The Barn Owl owls in New Jersey
The Barn Owl – Owls in New Jersey

In the evening, Barn Owls are nocturnal: they hunt from dusk to dawn. During the day, they roost in secluded places such as lofts, caves, and haystacks. While roosting, they become very still and if disturbed they will not move until the danger has passed.

MEASUREMENTS

Both Sexes

  • Length: 12.6-15.8 in (32-40 cm)
  • Weight: 14.1-24.7 oz (400-700 g)
  • Wingspan: 39.4-49.2 in (100-125 cm)

Their feathers help them blend in with their surroundings so predators cannot see them. Barn Owls swallow small prey whole and up to twice a day. They make a variety of calls, including hisses and shrieks. Some of their calls have been compared to the barking of a small dog or the yapping of a puppy.

The barn owl gets its name from its willingness to make its home in barns and other old, abandoned buildings. They are nocturnal birds of prey, so if you keep an eye out for them at night, the flash of pale wings in your headlights or heard during a screech is usually this species.

Do not worry. They are not offended by your presence and do not carry any diseases.

Backyard Tips for The Barn Owl

Barn owls are a great addition to any property. Their diet consists of rodents and they do not mind living near humans. However, they do need nesting sites, which are sometimes hard to come by. A barn owl box can provide an attractive home for a breeding pair.

A barn owl’s hearing is so acute that it can locate a vole underground by the noises the little rodent makes. So why not let the Barn Owl help you get rid of unwanted pests?

Fun Facts About The Barn Owls

  • Barn Owl swallow prey whole
  • They cough up pellets twice a day
  • Barn Owl females are showier than their male counterparts
  • They find prey easily at night
  • The oldest Barn Owl was fifteen years, five months old.

4. Northern Saw-whet Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl owls In NJ
Northern Saw-whet Owl Owls in NJ

The Northern Saw-whet Owl is a fierce, little predator that lives in the spruce, fir, and pine forests of North America. This feisty 8-inch bird catches and eats little mammals like mice and shrews—and he certainly does not look like he is all about making friends.

MEASUREMENTS

Both Sexes

  • Length: 7.1-8.3 in (18-21 cm)
  • Weight: 2.3-5.3 oz (65-151 g)
  • Wingspan: 16.5-18.9 in (42-48 cm)

This one-of-a-kind plush owl has a Cat Owl face (a large head with yellow eyes), a huffy expression, and faux fur on both the top and undersides of his wings. But this fun, festive fowl knows how to relax…cuddling with his stuffed mouse friend!

He stays well-hidden during the day, perching quietly in dense vegetation or nestled among tree roots and stumps in old open-grown forests. So, if you want to catch a glimpse of this secretive bird disguise yourself in shades of green and hang around near some tall evergreen trees at

Backyard Tips for Northern Saw-whet Owl

If your property is on an extensively wooded area within the Northern Saw-whet Owl’s breeding range, you may be lucky enough to attract a pair, who will build a nest in one of your sturdy nesting boxes.

They prefer to roost and breed in boxes placed at least 15 feet high and 12 inches wide, though they will not turn down something less at the end of a branch.

A flat roof is good, but overhang is better; they do not like nesting holes that face into the wind. Make sure you put it up well before the breeding season—and do not wait till dark, either.

It helps to know where the box will ultimately go (the higher up the better) … so that it does not take forever to install it (they might abandon a site if too long without one) …and because then you can site it for optimum sun exposure.

Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young chicks.

Fun Facts For Northern Saw-whet Owl

  • Mice are the main Northern Saw-whet Owl prey
  • While the male Northern Saw-whet Owl hunts, the female incubate and brood
  • The oldest Northern Saw-whet Owl was nine years, five months old

5. Snowy Owls

Snowy Owls – Owls in New Jersey

The regal Snowy Owl is found in the wilds of Northernmost North America during its breeding season, which begins in late April and lasts until mid-July.

Unlike many other owls, Snowies are surprisingly active during the day, when they hunt for lemmings and other small mammals in isolated fields or on the tundra.

MEASUREMENTS

Both Sexes

  • Length: 20.5-27.9 in (52-71 cm)
  • Weight: 56.4-104.1 oz (1600-2950 g)
  • Wingspan: 49.6-57.1 in (126-145 cm)

Unlike other owls, Snowies do not migrate at all. Instead, they spend their winters near the Arctic Circle, eating lemmings, ptarmigan and other prey that can be found in 24-hour daylight.

Snowy owls are only occasional visitors to the southern US, but they are one of the few big birds that fascinate small children. Their sheer size, their pale ghostly coloring.

Yes, their call is a low hoot – it sounds more like a door closing-but even if you do not know it is an owl, you will probably suspect there is something on those dunes!

Backyard Tips For Snowy Owls

Snowy owls feed mostly on hares, lemmings and other small mammals, supplemented by birds and reptiles. They often hunt by watching for prey from a perch, then chasing it in speedy flight, grabbing prey on the ground in their talons.

If they catch a large mammal on land, they may carry it to the water to submerge and drown it before feeding.

Bring this beautiful bird to your backyard using nesting boxes.

Fun Facts about Snowy Owls

  • Snowy Owls are diurnal
  • The oldest Snowy Owl was twenty-three years, ten months

6. Long-eared Owl

Long-eared Owl
Long-eared Owl – Owls in NJ

With its lanky build and unusual tufts of feathers, the Long-eared Owl is unmistakable. This nocturnal hunter roosts in dense foliage, where its camouflage makes it difficult to spot.

Listen for their low hoots and strange barking calls at night and watch them swoop over grasslands in search of small mammals in the summer.

MEASUREMENTS

Both Sexes

  • Length: 13.8-15.8 in (35-40 cm)
  • Weight: 7.8-15.3 oz (220-435 g)
  • Wingspan: 35.4-39.4 in (90-100 cm)

Long-eared Owls are lanky owls that hunt over grasslands to take small mammals. In the day, they roost in dense foliage and are hard to find. They have hearing so acute that they can snatch prey in complete darkness.

The Long-eared Owl is a quiet, secretive, local resident whose hoots have been compared to those of a distant Great Horned Owl. These owls can often be found in local parks, where they roost in the treetops at night.

Look for a whitewash on the ground below the roost trees and listen for their calls during the day to enhance your owling experience. You can also methodically search pine stands or shelterbelts near grassland or pasture for roosting owls.

Backyard Tips For Long-eared Owl

If you provide open-fronted next boxes or artificial baskets, Long-eared Owls may nest in them.

Fun Facts about Long-eared Owl

  • Long-eared Owl male’s call can be eared as far as 1 kilometer (0.7 miles)
  • These birds have their body adapted to precision hunting and silent flight.
  • Long-eared Owl swallows prey whole and will later regurgitate the indigestible parts in pellets.
  • The oldest Long-eared Owl was twelve years, one month old.

7. Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl Owls in New Jersey
Short-eared Owl Owls in NJ

No one looks for an owl that does not hoot, and the Short-eared Owl does not. They use acute hearing to hunt small mammals and birds.

And if owls have such big eyes (more than twice as large as those of hawks), why don’t they see better? The answer is only indirectly related to their hunting prowess; it is mostly because big eyes catch the light very well for nocturnal hunting.

MEASUREMENTS

Both Sexes

  • Length: 13.4-16.9 in (34-43 cm)
  • Weight: 7.3-16.8 oz (206-475 g)
  • Wingspan: 33.5-40.5 in (85-103 cm

If you are expecting tufts on the head, this owl might disappoint. Instead, look for round yellow eyes, black-rimmed. The most frequently seen of all North American owls in daylight, this one can cruise silently over grasslands on broad rounded wings, with mouse-like flight.

Do not confuse it with the Short-eared Owl’s larger relative, the Long-eared Owl, which also occurs in parts of the continent but is much less common and more likely to be found in woodlands.

Backyard Tips For Short-eared Owl

With trees in your yard, you never know who might show up. Maybe a sparrow hawk. A winter wren . . . or even a Short-eared Owl. If a Short-eared Owl does not pose a threat to your home, avoid removing the trees from your yard. Trees and branches provide critical habitat for owls and other wildlife.

Fun Facts about Short-eared Owl

  • Short-eared owls seems to benefit from strip-mining.
  • They can travel long distance over considerable expanses of oceans
  • The oldest short-eared Owl was at least four years, four months old

8. Barred Owl

Barred Owl Owls in NJ
Barred Owl owls in New Jersey

The Barred Owl is a handsome bird with soulful brown eyes; brown-and-white striped plumage; and beautiful snowy white breast feathers.

If you hear this charismatic owl’s hooting call, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-all?”—hoot! hoot! —maybe that’s because he has a tasty wood mouse between his claws.

MEASUREMENTS

Both Sexes

  • Length: 16.9-19.7 in (43-50 cm)
  • Weight: 16.6-37.0 oz (470-1050 g)
  • Wingspan: 39.0-43.3 in (99-110 cm)

Barred Owls are most often found in coniferous forests and treed swamps, with denser forest canopy and high productivity of small mammals the best habitat. This species is particularly fond of snoozing on a tree limb.

Backyard Tips For Short-eared Owl

Owls are among the most challenging birds to spot. But if you seek them by night, you can easily find Barred Owls thanks to their distinct “Who cooks for you?” call.

You will be hard-pressed to sneak up on one of these fiercely territorial birds, which will welcome your imitation with a dramatic aerial display.

Fun Facts About Short-eared Owl

  • Great Horned Owl is a serious threat to the Barred Owl
  • Barred Owl do not move around very much so, they do not migrate
  • Young Barred Owls can climb trees
  • The oldest Barred Owl was twenty-four years, one month

9. Boreal Owl

Boreal Owl
Boreal Owl – owls in NJ

The Boreal Owl is big in stature but has small dreams of prey. When it comes to the spruce and fir forests of northern North America, the Boreal Owl loves the dark of night.

It waits on a perch for small mammals and birds before sliding down its talons first to grab it. From late winter through spring, it is fast, and you will hear its hollow hooting sounds across the dark forest as the male calls for a mate.

They spend the year in boreal forests, sometimes making their way beyond the south in years of prey shortage.

MEASUREMENTS

Both Sexes

  • Length: 8.3-11.0 in (21-28 cm)
  • Weight: 3.3-7.6 oz (93-215 g)
  • Wingspan: 21.6-24.4 in (55-62 cm)

Snap on a headlamp and get out of bed to go outside and you will easily see bright-eyed, square-faced Boreal Owl, a bird of the northern latitudes. In the wild, it lives in forests ranging from Alaska to Newfoundland and Labrador and eats small mammals, birds, snakes, lizards or insects.

Backyard Tips For Boreal Owl

If your home happens to be in the range of the Boreal Owl, make sure to try our Boreal Owl Nesting Box! Each nesting box comes with a space-saving ladder and a window so that you can enjoy seeing your owl families develop every year.

Just make sure you put it up well before mating season, this shy bird has no interest in human interaction during its nesting period.

Fun Facts About Boreal Owl

  • Female Boreal Owl is usually much bigger than the male
  • Boreal Owl’s ear openings are symmetrical, with one much lower and the other opening up on the skull
  • The oldest Boreal Owl was at least eight years old

10. Northern Hawk-Owl

Northern Hawk-Owl
Northern Hawk-Owl – Owls in New Jersey

The Northern Hawk-Owl is a fascinating creature that manages to be both hawk and owl, depending on its needs. The Northern Hawk-Owl also provides us with an interesting example of adaptation, as it has made the most of its snowy habitat.

While Northern Hawk Owls are stunning to look at, they do not respond well to people. If you wish to see one in person, you should wait until the owl calls near your home and then listen for their call with a radio.

MEASUREMENTS

Both Sexes

  • Length: 14.2-17.7 in (36-45 cm)
  • Weight: 8.5-16.0 oz (240-454 g)
  • Wingspan: 27.9 in (71 cm)

This will let you know if the owls live in the area or if they pass through on their way south. If it is wintertime, this will give you an idea of whether or not the owl is migrating.

While the Northern Hawk Owl is certainly not a common sight, it is hard to miss when you do see one. Because of its striking appearance, as well as its large size in comparison to other owls, the Northern Hawk Owl is an eye-catching bird that makes for a memorable sighting.

Backyard Tips For Northern Hawk-Owl

To bring Northern Hawk-Owl to your backyard, you might want to set up an owl box or owl nest. The location of the owl nest or owl box is important. Place the box in a sheltered spot facing away from the prevailing wind – to face south, preferably.

Fun Facts About Northern Hawk-Owl

  • The Northern Hawk-Owl can detect by sight from up to half a mile away
  • The oldest Northern Hawk-Owl was five years, eleven months

Owls In New Jersey FAQs

What Is The Most Common Owl In NJ?

The most common owl in New Jersey is Screech Owl because it is a permanent resident.

What Do Owls in New Jersey Eat?

The owls in New Jersey generally feed on animals such as geese, rabbits, groundhogs, rats, birds and even other raptors. In fact, the owls in NJ also eat small prey like insects, reptiles, frogs, mice, scorpions and invertebrates.

Are Owls Protected In NJ?

Yes, they are protected by the law.

Why Do Owls Hoot?

Owls use hoot to communicate and convey different messages. They use it to claim territory and also fend off intruders. They also use it to signal a predator’s presence and of course, between mated pairs.

Where Can I See Owls In NJ?

You can spot owls in NJ in open coastal areas like Liberty Park area, Cape May Lighthouse area, Island Beach State Park, Barnegat Light, Sandy Hook, Edwin B. Forsythe NWR, etc.

Conclusion

Owls in New Jersey make for fantastic birding. This is even more so when you consider that the state also has a large diversity of neotropical migrant species as well—all of which can also be spotted in New Jersey’s incredible parks.

In short, there are many reasons to add the state to your bird watching bucket list—no matter whether you are here during winter or summer. Make sure you watch at least one of the owls in NJ!

If you spot something that we missed concerning owls in New Jersey, leave us a comment and let us know. Happy birding!

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