Are All Owls Nocturnal? Complete List Of Nocturnal Owl

Are All Owls Nocturnal

Nocturnal is one of the characteristics that can be easily associated with the owls. They belong to the family Strigidae or Tytonidae which have some subspecies under them that have this character. 

Though it can be easily stated that all the living 200 species of owl are not nocturnal as some of them are also diurnal and crepuscular. 

Research shows that nocturnal owls are generally stronger than the other diurnal birds. 

The night owls are revealed to have better leg strength in comparison to early risers, especially during nighttime. 

It is mostly because the ones active during evening or dark come up with an enhanced motor function of the cortex and spinal-cord excitability.

And In this article, I’ve covered all the owls that are nocturnal, their characteristics, and the differences between them with diurnal ones. 

So without further ado, Let’s get into it. 

List Of All Nocturnal Owls 

There are many species of owl that are nocturnal, But here we’re listing some popular species of the US: 

Great horned owl

They are one of the most powerful animals that hunt during the night and feed on all kinds of animals including mammals, reptiles, rodents, other owl species and birds.

They mainly hunt Ospreys, Peregrine Falcons, and other types of owls, along with many other animals. like mice, and rabbits. 

They like bathing in the moonlight and hunting for their food by keeping their ears open and listening to their sounds.

Barred owl

During hunting, they use their silence as an advantage and quietly listen to the sounds that other animals make. 

The unique feather structure includes tiny serrations on their flight feathers and helps them to fly soundlessly. 

They are an opportunistic predator who preys upon small vertebrates like birds, reptiles, amphibians, etc. 

Short-eared owl

They have small tufts of feathers that resemble human ears which makes them easy to hear at night. 

This species is active at all times of the day but preferably hunts at night, and hunts rodents, mammals, etc. 

Long-eared owl

This medium-sized owl hunts in phases, first around midnight, the second after midnight and the third time before an hour of sunrise. 

They focus on woodlands, hedgerows, and rough grassland looking for prey. 

Spotted owl 

A true owl species nearing its extinction is nocturnal, and they sit and wait for prey to fall in their territory. 

Then they fall from the perch and swoop or pounce on them. They occasionally hunt during the day if necessary and feed mostly on mammals. 

Eastern screech owl

This small owl species is strictly nocturnal, waiting in cavities or tree trunks during the daytime. 

Because of their size, they can camouflage well and can be hardly seen. They prefer to stay indoors because of their small size, as they can fall prey easily. 

Western screen owl

Another small owl who sits on branches and hunts its prey by falling on them quietly. They’re most active during dawn, night, or near dusk using their hearing and night vision to locate prey like rats, birds and flying insects. 

There are many other nocturnal species like a whiskered screech owl, flammulated owl, elf owl, great grey owl, northern saw-whet owl, boreal owl, and burrowing owl. 

How Many Owls Are Nocturnal?

A scientific fact states that 69% of owls are nocturnal, 3% are diurnal, 22% crepuscular the remaining 6% are not known as yet but can hunt at all times of the day. 

In this article, we’ve got specific information that 14 owl species are nocturnal. The colour of the eye greatly decides which time of the day they are active the most. 

Yellow means diurnal, orange is crepuscular, and dark brown and black stand for nocturnal, though this cannot be entirely true for all living species of owls. 

Why Are Owls Nocturnal?

The species of owl that feeds on small mammals and reptiles that are nocturnal and only come out at night. 

They have a strong hearing and vision capacity to catch their prey just by listening to a small sound and calculating the distance to catch the prey. 

Hunting at night also eases their competition with other large birds like eagle, and hawks who hunt during the daytime. 

Small owl species generally keep themselves sheltered to protect their lives from other large owls and predator species. 

Difference Between Nocturnal And Diurnal Owls: 

CharacteristicsNocturnal OwlsDiurnal Owls
SizeGenerally varies from small to medium. They are of all sizes. 
Time active in the mostMainly active during dark and night. They are mainly active during the day. 
Eye colourDark brown or black but exceptions are there. Mainly yellow but also can be of other colours. 
CompetitionDoesn’t have competition with other hunter species like eagles and hawks. Have to compete with other birds to catch their prey. 
Hearing abilityHas great hearing ability to catch prey in the dark. Doesn’t need to have the hearing ability since they catch prey in broad daylight. 
DietMostly rodents and small mammals like mice, rabbits, birds, etc. Feeds on all kinds of mammals, birds, reptiles, etc. 
HabitatsThey stay in burrows and cavities. They stay on tree branches, holes in the ground and other places. 
Vision They are mostly colour blind.They can see colours. 
CommunicationMostly communicate by sounds. They can communicate by sound or other methods too. 


Nocturnal owls have better vision and hearing capability than diurnal species. They feed on small mammals, reptiles, and insects that are nocturnal too. 

Some owls have the habit of perching on trees and watching out, to look for their prey. The time of the day they are active the most is determined by their body structure, diet and the species they belong.

At last, I hope this article was helpful and informative.

Thanks for reading!

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