11 Owls that Live in Maine (and Where You’re Likely to See Them)

Beautiful and impressive smart Great horned owl, Bird of Prey
© agustavop/iStock via Getty Images

Written by Jennifer Geer

Published: January 21, 2024

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Although only a few types of owl species live year-round in Maine, others can be found in the state during different times of the year. Maine provides an ideal habitat for owls and many other birds with its dense forests. In fact, about 83% of Maine is covered by forestland. If you’d like to learn about the different owls that live in Maine and where you’re likely to see them, keep reading.

Following is a list of 11 owls that can be found in Maine in order from most common to the rarest.

1. Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

The majestic great-horned owl is a formidable predator with hearing so keen it can hear a twig snap from a mouse 75 feet away.

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The great horned owl is commonly found year-round across North America, including Maine. This large owl is 20 inches tall with a 48-inch wingspan. The great horned owl can be identified by its distance series of deep, resonant hoots, which can be heard at quite a distance during the night.

2. Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred owls are extremely vocal, and their call has been compared to a howling hound dog.

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Another of Maine’s most commonly found owl species is theĀ barred owl. You can tell a barred owl apart from a great horned owl by its lack of ear tufts. It’s also the only owl found in Maine with dark brown eyes. Barred owls can be found across the state year-round like the great horned owl.

3. Northern Saw-whet Owl

Northern Saw-Whet Owl

The northern saw-whet owl is a tiny member of its species and can often be found nesting in man-made nest boxes.

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The northern saw-whet owl is a smaller member of the species at only 8 inches tall with an 18-inch wingspan. In fact, it’s one of the smallest owls in North America. Although many of the males stay in Maine all year, most of the females head south for winter.

4. Eastern Screech-Owl

Eastern Screech Owl

Screech owls are nocturnal and hunt for small mammals, birds,

earthworms

, insects, frogs, and lizards at night.

©mlorenz/Shutterstock.com

Eastern Screech Owls can be found living in forests across the state, although they are most common in southern Maine. However, they are known to avoid territories of great horned owls. Another small species, the screech owl, is only 10 inches high with a 20-inch wingspan.

5. Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl

Short-eared owls are widespread across the state, although their population size has been decreasing due to habitat loss.

©iStock.com/Harry Collins

Unlike many other species of owls, the short-eared owl can be seen during the day as well as at night. It’s the only ground-nesting owl in Maine and is most likely found in open grasslands or marshes in the northern and eastern regions of the state. You’re most likely to see them in Maine during the spring and summer months.

6. Long-eared Owl

Long-eared owl (Asio otus)

The medium-sized, long-eared owl typically nests in the abandoned nests of other birds.

©Piotr Krzeslak/Shutterstock.com

Long-eared owls live along coastal Maine and are typically only seen during spring and summer. An elusive species, they are generally quiet while hunting and can be hard to spot. These owls prefer nesting in dense forests near open habitats.

7. Snowy Owl

snowy owl sitting in snow

Snowy owls spend their summers on the Arctic tundra, flying south to Maine for the winter.

©Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

These beautiful birds can be seen in Maine during the winter, usually arriving in December and staying until March. Some years, hardly any snowy owls are spotted in Maine, while other years they may be widespread. It’s easy to identify a snowy owl by its snow-white plumage and intimidating size. Snowy owls can reach up to 30 inches tall with wingspans of up to 65 inches.

8. Northern Hawk Owl

Northern Hawk-Owl

The northern hawk owl is common in Canada, while it occasionally can be seen in northern Maine.

©Svitlana Tkach/Shutterstock.com

The northern hawk owl is rarely seen in Maine. It tends to be spotted in the northernmost part of the state during the winter. Northern hawk owls are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. They live in boreal forests in Canada for most of the year.

9. Boreal Owl

Boreal owls’ diet consists of small mammals, including moles, gophers, squirrels, gophers, and shrews.

©Greg Schechter / CC BY 2.0 – Original / License

Another rare owl for Maine is the boreal owl. It prefers to live in dense coniferous and mixed hardwood forests. It’s a small owl, although bigger than the northern saw-whet owl. They are nocturnal birds, and you likely won’t spot them around during the day.

10. Barn Owl

close up of a barn owl

Barn owls are silent in flight and expert at capturing their prey.

©iStock.com/vanderje

It’s easy to identify a barn owl by its white heart-shaped face and large, dark eyes. Barn owls are one of the world’s most widely distributed owl species. However, it’s relatively rare to encounter a barn owl in Maine. According to the Maine Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, the barn owl has only been confirmed in the southern part of York County.

11. Great Grey Owl

close-up of a great grey owl (Strix nebulosa)

Although the great grey owl is larger than great horned owls, they only weigh 2.5 pounds.

©Edwin_Butter/iStock via Getty Images

Consider yourself lucky if you encounter a great grey owl in the state of Maine. These beautiful birds are usually found in more northern areas, such as Canada. Great grey owls are large, with wingspans that can reach over five feet.

Summary of 11 Owls That Live in Maine

NumberOwl SpeciesGeographic LocationWhen to Find in Maine
1Great Horned OwlEntire StateYear Round
2Barred OwlEntire StateYear Round
3Northern Saw-whet OwlEntire StateYear Round/Summer
4Eastern Screech OwlEntire State (Most common in southern Maine)Year Round
5Short-eared OwlNorthern and eastern parts of MaineSpring and summer
6Long-eared OwlCoastal regionsSpring and summer
7Snowy OwlCoastal regionsWinter
8Northern Hawk OwlNorthern MaineWinter
9Boreal OwlNorthern MaineWinter
10Barn OwlYork CountyYear Round
11Great Grey OwlNorthern MaineWinter


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About the Author

Jennifer Geer is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on animals, news topics, travel, and weather. Jennifer holds a Master's Degree from the University of Tulsa, and she has been researching and writing about news topics and animals for over four years. A resident of Illinois, Jennifer enjoys hiking, gardening, and caring for her three pugs.

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