Owls in Iowa

12 different species of owl have been seen in the wild in Iowa, 9 of which are considered native to the state. Unfortunately, many of these owls are declining in population due to a combination of factors like a loss of habitat and resources. For instance, the Short-eared Owl and the Barn Owl are endangered at the state level in Iowa, while the Long-eared Owl is threatened.

Owls in Iowa (IA)

List of Owls in Iowa

NameAverage SizeStatusWhere Do They Live in the State?Mating Season
Small Owls
Northern Saw-whet Owl Length: 7 – 8 inches
Wingspan: 17-22 inches
NativeMostly seen in winter, with sightings in northern and western Iowa in places like Effigy Mounds National Monument, Maquoketa Caves State Park, and Yellow River State ForestSpring (March to April)
Burrowing Owl Length: 9-11 inches
Wingspan:  21-24 inches
NativeRarely nests in the state, often spotted in places with open areas like Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and Prairie City Wildlife AreaLate winter to early spring (February to August)
Boreal Owl Length: 8.7–10.6 inches
Wingspan: 20–24 inches
AccidentalVagrant that visits from other states often seen in places like Loess Hills State Forest and Yellow River State ForestSpring to summer (March to July)
Eastern Screech Owl Length: 6-10 inches
Wingspan: 18-24 inches
NativeYear-round residents who live in the woods of places like Ledges State Park, Brown’s Woods, and Water Works ParkFrom late winter to early spring (Between February and April)
Large Owls
Great Horned Owl Length: 18-25 inches
Wingspan: 40-60 inches
NativeApex predator that lives in the woods of Iowa of Whiterock Conservancy, Hitchcock Nature Center and Cedar Rapids Urban Birding TrailLate fall to early winter (November to January)
Barn Owl Length: 12-16 inches
Wingspan: 42-43 inches 
NativeVery rare in Iowa, sightings have occurred in open areas like Pleasant Creek State Recreation Area, Hawkeye Wildlife Area, and Des Moines River GreenbeltYear-round, with peaks in late winter and spring (March to June)
Northern Hawk-owl Length: 14.2-17.6 inches
Wingspan: 18 inches
AccidentalOccasional visitor to the state, to the point where an appearance could be considered a “lifetime event”Late winter to early summer (mid-February to May)
Barred Owl Length: 16-24 inches
Wingspan: 16-24 inches
NativeOne of the most common species of owl in Iowa, with more sightings in the eastern part of the state in places like the Mines of Spain Recreation Area, Yellow River State Forest, and Cedar Rapids Urban Birding TrailLate winter to Spring (February to April)
Snowy Owl Length: 20-27 inches
Wingspan: 49-58 inches
NativeUncommon, with most sightings in Iowa being the result of irruptions during some wintersVaries by region and based on prey availability (any time between May and September)
Long-eared Owl Length: 13-16 inches
Wingspan: 24-40 inches
NativeRare owl that can be seen occasionally nesting in the eastern part of the state in places like Yellow River State Forest and Effigy Mounds National MonumentLate winter to Spring (February to April)
Short-eared Owl Length: 13-17 inches
Wingspan: 33-43 inches 
NativeVery rare in Iowa, often nests on the ground in open areas like grasslands around Saylorville Lake, as well as in places like Union Grove State Park and Brushy Creek State Recreation AreaVaries, often in early spring (March to September)
Great Gray Owl Length: 24-33 inches
Wingspan: 4-5 feet 
AccidentalOccasional visitor from states like MinnesotaSpring to early summer (March to May)

Where Can You See Owls in Iowa

Up north, the Maynes Grove is a great place to see the Northern Saw-whet Owl in winter, while this owl is also seen in western Iowa at Moorehead Park. Occasionally in some years, the Snowy Owl will make its way down to Iowa and can be seen during the colder seasons.

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