Westchester County is home to a number of species of owls, though it is somewhat rare to see one. Many are nocturnal, of course, though some are crepuscular, meaning most active at dawn and dusk. They are very good at camouflaging with the trees and hiding in sheltered spots. Their hearing is unbelievably good–most have ears set at two different levels on their head, so they can triangulate the exact spot a sound is coming from, which comes in very handy for hunting. Owls can turn their heads about 270 degrees, which makes up for the lack of movement in their large eyes. They eat small mammals, amphibians, birds and insects. They don’t typically make their own nests, but may co-opt another large bird’s nest or just find a nice hollow tree for their eggs.

Barred Owl
Strix varia

Barred owls seem to be the most commonly seen and heard in northern Westchester. Their gray-brown and white feathers are horizontally striped on wings and back, and mostly white with vertical streaks on the front. They don’t migrate, and tend to stay in the same general area. Their call sounds like “Who cooks for you?” though it can vary.

Eastern Screech Owl
Megascops asio

Eastern screech owls are small–only about 8 inches tall–and can be either reddish or gray in coloring. They live in trees, and like to be near water, but they can often be found in suburbia. Their calls are described as a whinny or trilling sound.

Great Horned Owl
Bubo virginianus

Great Horned Owls are the largest owls to be found in Westchester, and they can eat larger prey, including hawks and other owls! They can be found in varied habitats throughout North America. They have a stuttering call, which sounds like hu-hu-hu-HOO-HOO.

Northern Saw-Whet Owl
Aegolius acadicus

Northern saw-whet owls are tiny–less than 8 inches tall! They have reddish-brown and white feathers which are darker on the back and paler and streaked on the breast. They prefer dense forests and roost in evergreen trees, near the trunk. They make a rhythmic, repetitive tooting noise.