Owls in Illinois

Illinois is home to 12 species of owls, with 9 native to the state. Out of all of them, the Short-eared Owl is at risk in the state, which is sad considering it was once the most abundant owl there, but its population is on the decline due to a loss of habitat.

Owls in Illinois (IL)

List of Owls in Illinois

NameAverage SizeStatusWhere Do They Live in the StateMating Season
Small Owls
Burrowing Owl
Length: 9-11 inches
Wingspan:  21-24 inches
NativeRarely seen, occasionally in the north-eastern part of the state near Lake Michigan Late winter to early spring (February to August)
Northern Saw-whet Owl
Length: 7 – 8 inches
Wingspan: 17-22 inches
NativeThis owl is available in the northern part in the summer and the southern part in the winter in places like Shawnee National Forest, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, and Giant City State ParkSpring (March to April)
Boreal Owl Length: 8.7–10.6 inches
Wingspan: 20–24 inches
AccidentalRare visitor to the state, with a few occasional sightings in the boreal forests of IllinoisSpring to summer (March to July)
Eastern Screech Owl
Length: 6-10 inches
Wingspan: 18-24 inches
NativeCommon throughout the state, in places like Jackson Park, Lincoln Park, Matthiessen State Park, and moreFrom late winter to early spring (Between February and April)
Large Owls
Barn Owl Length: 12-16 inches
Wingspan: 42-43 inches 
NativeCommon throughout Illinois, especially in places like Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge, Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge, and Midewin National Tallgrass PrairieYear-round, with peaks in late winter and spring (March to June)
Great Horned Owl Length: 18-25 inches
Wingspan: 40-60 inches
NativeVery common in state parks like Rock Cut, Kankakee River, and Hennepin Canal Parkway, as well as suburban areas and woodlandsLate fall to early winter (November to January)
Barred Owl Length: 16-24 inches
Wingspan: 16-24 inches
NativeCommon throughout the state, with sightings in Cache River State Natural Area, Mississippi Palisades State Park, and Pere Marquette State ParkLate winter to spring (February to April)
Short-eared Owl
Length: 13-17 inches
Wingspan: 33-43 inches 
NativeWhile mostly common, during the summer, these owls move up north to places like Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Illinois Beach State Park, and Nachusa GrasslandsVaries, often in early spring (March to June, peaking in April)
Snowy Owl Length: 20-27 inches
Wingspan: 49-58 inches
NativeOccasionally, winters in Illinois in the northern part of the state in places like Illinois Beach State Park and Montrose Point Bird SanctuaryVaries by region and based on prey availability (any time between May and September)
Long-eared Owl
Length: 13-16 inches
Wingspan: 24-40 inches
NativeThis owl is migratory within the state, moving north in the summer to places like Cook County and Dixon Waterfowl Refuge and returning south in the winterFrom late winter to early spring (around February to April)
Northern Hawk-owl Length: 14.2-17.6 inches
Wingspan: 18 inches
AccidentalOccasionally seen in the state, with sightings in Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge and Shawnee National ForestLate winter to early summer (mid-February to May)
Tawny Owl Length: 15–18 inches
Wingspan: 32–41 inches
AccidentalVagrant with one or two sightings in some places like Shawnee National ForestLate summer to early winter (July to October)

Where Can You See Owls in Illinois

In central Illinois, Catlin County Park is a great place to see the Barred and Great Horned Owls. The former can also be seen in the Forest Park Nature Center near Peoria Heights. The Short-eared Owl can be found in the Banner Marsh State Fish and Wildlife Area.

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