Owls About Texas

by | Feb 26, 2021 | Fauna

There’s a reason owls are often painted as wise wizards in animated tales and children’s storybooks. Something about those big eyes, that grumpy-seeming demeanor, and the ability to swivel their heads up to 270 degrees is both imposing and seemingly intellectual. In celebration of these brainy-looking birds, we’ve whipped up a primer on four common Texas species.

ILLUSTRATIONS Samantha N. Peters

A brown, white and gray illustration of a great horned owl (Bubo virginianus) sitting on a branch; it has yellow eyes, rust-colored eye discs and prominent ear tufts.


Bubo virginianus
Tall ear tufts or “horns”
Yellow eyes surrounded by copper-brown facial discs
Sounds like: A deep “Who who-whoo, who-who?”
Look for them: In young woodlands adjacent to open areas, but habitat varies widely

We’ve had a pair (Athena and her mate) nest at the Center for more than a decade! Learn more here.

A gray and illustration of an eastern screech-owl (Megascops asio) sitting on a branch; it has yellow eyes, is small compared to the other owls on the page, and has ear tufts.


Megascops asio
Pale greenish bill, yellow eyes
Small ear tufts can be upright or flat
Sounds like: A whinnying sound like a high-pitched horse
Look for them: In various woodlands — preferably near water

A white and brown illustration of a burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia) standing on the ground; it has long legs and yellow eyes.


Athene cunicularia
Rounded heads and notably long legs
Large yellow eyes and bold white eyebrows
Sounds like: A variety of clucks, screams and rattles; cooing during mating season
Look for them: Perching on the ground in open habitats during daylight

A white and light brown illustration of a barred owl (Strix varia) sitting on a branch; it has black eyes and a mostly white breast..


Strix varia
Round head, yellow beak and dark eyes surrounded by ripples
Prominent horizontal bars on upper breast
Sounds like: “Who cooks for you; who cooks for you all?”
Look for them: In forests near swamps or rivers

Special thanks to Travis Audubon volunteer Jane Tillman; this article also heavily referenced allaboutbirds.org.