18 Owl Species With Irresistible Faces

Owls just have a look that we love. Anan Kaewkhammul/Shutterstock
A collage of different owls
Owls just have a look that we love. Shutterstock and Flickr

Owls just have a look that we love. (Photos: Shutterstock and Flickr)

Owls are rather unusual in the bird kingdom. They have huge eyes that are fixed in their sockets, and feathers that help form flatter, more rounded faces than other bird species — faces that we humans can't seem to resist. So, we're going to indulge ourselves. Meet 18 owls with an abundance of cuteness and attitude.

1. Long-Eared Owl

Long-eared owls in a tree
The long-eared owl is a bit of a squatter as it prefers to take over other birds' abandoned nests. Bernard Stam/Flickr

Found in North America, Europe and Asia, the long-eared owl takes up residence in the abandoned nests of similarly sized birds such as hawks, ravens or magpies.

2. Barn Owl

A barn owl
There are more than 22 different barn owl species. Tony Hisgett/Flickr

That heart-shaped face is characteristic of barn owls. This species is not only the most widespread owl species, but also one of the most widespread of any bird species. So it is no wonder that it has more than 22 other names, including ghost owl, death owl, hissing owl and delicate owl.

3. Spectacled Owl

A spectacled owl in a rain forest
This rain forest-dwelling owl isn't afraid to take on prey larger than itself. randy stewart/Flickr

A resident of southern Mexico, Central America and parts of South America, the spectacled owl prefers living in dense, old-growth rainforests. It preys on small mammals that are active at night, though it can take down prey larger than itself, including a three-toed sloth.

4. Oriental Bay Owl

Oriental Bay Owl in the zoo
The Oriental Bay owl favors hollows trees and stumps for its nests. jtairat/Shutterstock

This unusual looking owl can be found throughout Southeast Asia. It is part of the barn owl family, one of two families of owl, the other being "typical" or "true" owls.

5. Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern screech owl in a hollow tree
Despite its name, this owl doesn't screech all that often. Action Sports Photography/Shutterstock

Found throughout eastern North America from Canada to Mexico, this short and stocky species has a misleading name. It doesn't actually screech, but makes a descending tremolo call. Still, it is usually heard rather than seen.

6. Snowy Owl

A snowy owl
The snowy owl is a heavy bird, but flies swiftly. Kayo/Shutterstock

While it is primarily found in the Arctic tundra of North America, Europe and Asia, these snowy-speckled birds will sometimes visit the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. It is one of the largest owl species, and it is the heaviest.

7. Eurasian Eagle Owl

Eurasian eagle owl in the forest
The Eurasian eagle owl will eat just about anything. jurra8/Shutterstock

Also one of the largest owl species, the Eurasian eagle owl is larger than the snowy owl, with a wingspan of 5 to 6 feet. A powerful predator, it is not a picky eater, consuming everything from small mammals to snakes and other reptiles, and even larger prey like foxes or similarly sized birds like geese and other owl species.

8. Tawny Owl

Two tawny owls
Tawny owls rely heavily on their vision and excellent hearing to pinpoint prey. Peter Trimming/Flickr

The tawny owl is one of the most common owls in England, but it is rarely seen due its nocturnal nature.

9. Great Gray Owl

A great gray owl perched on a tree
This great gray owl is deceptive in its size. davemhuntphotography/Shutterstock

Though it is believed to be the world's largest owl (it's the longest, but not heaviest) much of that size is deceptive. Its fluffy feathers and long tail belie a small, light body.

10. Great Horned Owl

A great horned owl
The great horned owl is one of the most recognizable owls in the United States. Chris Hill/Shutterstock

There is a reason that this is the species used as a model for statues of owls strategically placed on buildings and in yards to keep smaller birds away. Author Carol Lee points out that, "Almost any living creature that walks, crawls, flies, or swims, except the large mammals, is the great horned owl's legitimate prey." It is one of the most widespread and adaptable owls in the Americas.

11. Northern Pygmy Owl

Northern Pygmy Owl on forest floor
The tiny northern pygmy owl likes the early morning and the early evening. NechakoRiver/Flickr

We've heard about the larger owls but what about the tiny species? The northern pygmy owl is a mere 6 inches long. Unlike many owl species, this one is diurnal and also active at dawn and dusk.

12. Burrowing Owls

A collection of burrowing owls
As their name suggests, burrowing owls live in holes in the ground, not trees. Tania Thomson/Shutterstock

Not all owls live in trees, as the burrowing owl can attest. This species takes up residence in old ground squirrel or prairie dog burrows. Hunting at night, it can fly as well as use its long legs to sprint and capture prey.

13. Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl on a tree branch
Even though it's small, its hoot sounds like a saw being sharpened. Kameron Perensovich/Flickr

This doll-like species is a demure 6-8 inches long and is one of the smallest owls found in North America. These creatures earned their name because their call is reminiscent of a saw being sharpened on a whetstone.

14. Striped Owl

Close up for striped owl
The striped owl has a huge habitat range. Chris Gladis/Flickr

This beautifully marked species can be found in Central and South America, but because it is nocturnal and not easily spotted, its exact distribution is not known. What is known, however, is its range is huge and it can be found from marshlands to savannas to woodlands.

15. Tawny Fish Owl

Tawny fish owl in a forest
The tawny fish owl's talons have evolved to better handle fish. Xiebiyun/Shutterstock

This species is found in Southeast Asia and is a fan of fish (of course) as well as other aquatic creatures from crabs to frogs. It also indulges in a meal of Mandarin duck every so often.

16. Western Screech Owl

Close-up of western screech owl
Screech owls can their species apart due to their sounds. Tamara Kulikova/Shutterstock

A relative of the Eastern screech owl, this species can be found along the western side of North America and down into Central America, though the northern populations are larger than the southern populations. You can find them in open woods or at the edges of forests, nesting in cavities excavated and abandoned by woodpeckers.

17. Spotted Wood Owl

spotted wood owl
If you hear a staccato 'huhuhu' followed by a deep drawn-out 'whoo,' a spotted wood owl may be nearby. panda3800/Shutterstock

This sad-faced bird can be found in Southeast Asia, Sumatra, Java and the Philippines. It loves forest or woodland habitat and can usually be found near water. Its striped coloration helps it hide in the twiggy and shaded canopy.

18. Collared Scops-Owl

Collared-scops owl in a palm tree
The collared-scops owl is tiny but mighty. Worraket/Shutterstock

And one last unusual owl face to go "awwwww" at. This little guy can be found in Asia from northern Pakistan through northern India into south China. That face is no friend to smaller birds, though, and a collared scops-owl can often be located by small birds mobbing it while it tries to roost. However, it eats mostly insects.