All Owl Colors Explained (+ List of 54 Colorful Owls)

Owls in different colors

When we think of owls, we often think of wide-eyed brown birds. However, many nature enthusiasts and bird lovers forget the varied colors of an owl.

Beyond their iconic calls and hoots and striking shadows, owls exhibit many colors that serve different functions and, at the same time, make their appearance even more beautiful.

Dive into this comprehensive guide to explore the wide array of colors that these magnificent birds exhibit. Let’s unravel different shades of the owl kingdom and learn what makes each one so special.

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What Colors Are Owls?

Brown owl flying low over fields

Owls exhibit a color palette that spans from lighter hues to darker shades. Most owls possess brown, gray, or white plumage. These neutral colors help them camouflage on trees and other natural surroundings. 

Variations of these shades help identify the different owl species and provide them with their own unique camouflage abilities. Some owls, like the Snowy Owl, are mostly white, suiting snowy habitats.

But not all owls are neutral-toned. Some tropical owls have reddish or rufous hues. These colors often reflect the tones of their environments, ensuring their stealth during hunts. 

Other owls might have spots, stripes, or bars that further assist in hiding.

Fun Fact: Without their colorful feathers, owls can be described as being “alien-like.”

Different Colors of Owls

Owls are known for their spooky calls at night and their many different colors. Each color is not just pretty to look at, but it also helps the owls hide in their natural habitats and stay safe.

The following is a list of the different colors of an owl:

1. White

White owl sitting on a branch quietly

White owls, like the Snowy Owl, have pure white feathers that allow them to blend into the landscape. A male Snowy Owl is white all over, while a female Snowy Owl exhibits dark brown lines on her white plumage.

However, their snowy appearance isn’t just for camouflage. It also acts as an insulator, keeping them warm in cold temperatures.

Some owls also suffer from albinism, which results in white feathers and pink eyes. The Great Horned Owl is found to be more susceptible to this condition.

2. Brown

Brown owl waiting for prey

Brown is perhaps the most common among owl colors. Brown owls often inhabit forests, fields, and meadows, and their shades range from light tawny hues to deep chocolates. 

This coloration provides effective camouflage, allowing owls to blend seamlessly with tree barks and shadows. 

You can also observe patterns, such as streaks or spots. These can further enhance their ability to remain unseen by potential prey.

3. Gray

Gray owl waiting in wild forest

Gray owls are another common group in the owl family. Their soft gray plumage is an excellent disguise against rocks, urban landscapes, and overcast skies.

They are often mistaken for their brown counterparts due to the similarities in their habitats.

However, gray tones, combined with the usual markings, give them a distinct identity, especially during dawn and dusk when they are most active.

4. Rufous or Reddish

Rufuos owl perched on a stump of a tree

Owls with a reddish or rufous tint are often found in warmer, tropical regions. These owls are adept at blending into terracotta soils and autumn leaves.

The reddish hue, while not as common as the neutrals, plays a vital role in their survival in specific ecosystems. This helps them remain camouflaged while hunting.

List of 54 Colorful Owls

While many sport muted hues to seamlessly blend into their surroundings, some owls possess distinctive and vibrant colors. 

Here is a list of some colorful owl species that you can look into:

1. Barred Owl

Barred Owl
Scientific Name:Strix varia
Habitat:Dense woodlands across North America
Size:16–25 inches
Diet:Small mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles
Colorful Feature:White and brown mottled plumage, with vertical brown bars on the underbelly and horizontal ones on the chest, and its facial disc is a contrasting off-white.

The Barred Owl is easily distinguishable by its mottled appearance. They have mottled brown and white feathers and dark brown, almost black, eyes.

Barred Owls reside in North America’s dense forests. Their habitat ranges from wet swamps to dry upland forests.

These owls are mostly nocturnal but can sometimes be spotted during the day. They have a distinctive call that somewhat sounds like “Who cooks for you?”

Preferring dense woodlands, Barred Owls are often found perched high up, scanning for prey or serenading the woods with their hoots.

2. Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl
Scientific Name:Bubo scandiacus
Habitat:Tundra regions of the Arctic
Size:20–28 inches
Diet:Primarily lemmings, but they’ll also hunt other small mammals and birds
Colorful Feature:White feathers, sometimes interspersed with patches or spots of black

The Snowy Owl is mainly found in the Arctic. This large white owl has a smooth, rounded head and very small ear tufts. 

Due to their bulky build and dense feathering on the legs, Snowy Owls look wide at the base when they sit on the ground.

These owls exhibit a patient hunting style and are often seen sitting with minimal movement on tundra or dunes.

Their brilliant white feathers, marked occasionally with black spots or bars, serve both as camouflage in their snowy homeland and as a reflection of their cold environment.

To witness the hunting abilities of Snowy Owls, watch this clip below:

Silent Snowy Owl Attack | Alaska's Deadliest

3. Spectacled Owl

Spectacled Owl
Scientific Name:Pulsatrix perspicillata
Habitat:Rainforests and woodlands in Central and South America
Size:16–20 inches
Diet:Small mammals, birds, insects, and occasional reptiles
Colorful Feature:White face framed by concentric brown rings, creating a spectacle-like appearance

The Spectacled Owl gets its name due to the buffy-white eyebrow-like markings on its face. This makes them look like they’re wearing eyeglasses.

Apart from their distinct “spectacles,” Spectacled Owls have bright yellow eyes, contrasting their dark brown head and facial disk. 

The throat of Spectacled Owls are white, while their underparts are buffy-white with a hint of yellowish-brown.

These nocturnal creatures are found primarily in rainforests, where their calls often resonate as a series of haunting knocks.

Their appearance and sound make them a central figure in many local legends and folklore of the Central and South American regions.

4. Northern Pygmy Owl

Northern Pygmy Owl
Scientific Name:Glaucidium gnoma
Habitat:Mountainous forests and wooded canyons
Size:6–7 inches
Diet:Birds, insects, and small mammals
Colorful Feature:Gray-brown body punctuated with white freckles, notable “false eyes” on the back of their heads

The Northern Pygmy Owl is a small bird that is predominantly dark brown and white with long tails. They also sport a smoothly rounded head and piercing yellow eyes.

Native to the western parts of North America, Northern Pygmy Owls are unique in their diurnal habits.

Despite their compact size, they are known to hunt prey much larger than them. Their intriguing “false eyes” on the back of their heads serve as a defense mechanism for potential predators.

5. Striped Owl

Striped Owl
Scientific Name:Asio clamator
Habitat:Grasslands and open areas in Central and South America
Size:12-15 inches
Diet:Small mammals, birds, and insects
Colorful Feature:Prominent black stripes against a white chest

The Striped Owl, as the name suggests, is characterized by the striped patterns on their underparts. They have a striking appearance, with dark eyes set against a pale face.

Striped Owls are commonly found in grasslands and savannas of South and Central America. They prefer these open areas where they can perch on scattered trees and bushes.

These owls emit a long, hawk-like whistle that sounds like “wheeyoo.” Both males and females can also be heard letting out a series of barking calls.

6. Jungle Owlet

Jungle Owlet
Scientific Name:Glaucidium radiatum
Habitat:Primarily found in forests, woodlands, and shrublands across India and Sri Lanka
Size:7-8 inches
Diet:Insects, small birds, and occasionally small mammals
Colorful Feature:Gray and white mixed plumage with pronounced streaks

Originating from the Indian Subcontinent, the Jungle Owlet is a relatively small bird with a powerful presence. 

Boasting a mix of gray and white plumage, these owls have distinctive streaks and white eyebrows. These features stand out against their darker surroundings.

Active mainly during the dawn and dusk, Jungle Owlets are known for their rhythmic hooting, which can be heard echoing through their habitat.

7. Ferruginous Pygmy Owl

Ferruginous Pygmy Owl
Scientific Name:Glaucidium brasilianum
Habitat:Woodlands and open areas across the Americas
Size:6–7 inches
Diet:Insects, small mammals, and birds
Colorful Feature:The owl colors include a mix of rusty and dark brown, resembling oxidized iron.

The Ferruginous Pygmy Owl is small yet full of character. The name “ferruginous” is derived from their iron-like coloring. They have a mix of rusty and dark brown feathers.

These owls are common in wooded habitats and open areas with scattered trees like southern Texas and Arizona.

Ferruginous Pygmy Owls are typically active by day and may hunt birds that are twice their size. Like Northern Pygmy Owls, they possess false “eye spots” on the back of their head which aid in hunting.

8. Madagascar Scops Owl

Madagascar Scops Owl
Scientific Name:Otus rutilus
Habitat:Forests of Madagascar
Size:7.5-9.8 inches
Diet:Insects primarily
Colorful Feature:A blend of brown and rufous

The Madagascar Scops Owl exhibits a blend of brown and rufous in its plumage. This coloration offers excellent camouflage against the tree barks, helping them remain undetected.

Madagascar Scops Owls are endemic to Madagascar and are also called Malagasy Scops Owls or Rainforest Scops Owls.

Like most owls, they hunt at night and can be found roosting on branches or tree trunks during the day.

9. Morepor

Scientific Name:Ninox novaeseelandiae
Habitat:Forests and woodlands across New Zealand
Size:10-11 inches
Diet:Insects, small mammals, and other birds
Colorful Feature:Velvety brown plumage dotted with white spots

Also known as the “Ruru” in Māori, the Morepork is a native owl of New Zealand. Their soft, velvety brown feathers are dotted with white, offering perfect camouflage during their nocturnal hunting sessions.

Their name originates from their haunting, mournful call, which sounds like “more-pork”. Mostly nocturnal, these owls have excellent night vision, aiding their hunting abilities.

In Māori tradition, Moreporks were deemed as watchful guardians. However, their calls were thought to bring misfortune or bad news. 

10. Eurasian Pygmy Owl

Eurasian Pygmy Owl
Scientific Name:Glaucidium passerinum
Habitat:Wooded regions across Europe and Asia
Size:6-7 inches
Diet:Insects, small mammals, and birds
Colorful Feature:Reddish-brown feathers with white spots

Europe’s smallest owl, the Eurasian Pygmy Owl, boasts a reddish-brown plumage dotted with white spots. Their striking appearance is complemented by yellow eyes that seem to observe everything intently.

Eurasian Pygmy Owls are known to be the smallest owls in Europe. Despite their size, they have large claws that aid in catching birds and small mammals.

Active during the day and dusk, Eurasian Pygmy Owls often perch in visible spots, scanning for prey. They are also known for their melodious call that contrasts with their fierce hunting style.

11. Philippines Scops Owl

Philippines Scops Owl
Scientific Name:Otus megalotis
Habitat:Forests across the Philippines
Size:8-9 inches
Diet:Insects and small vertebrates
Colorful Feature:Blend of rufous and brown feathers with intricate streaks 

The Philippines Scops Owl sports a blend of brown and rufous with streaks. This gives them excellent camouflage in the dense woods they inhabit.

Philippines Scops Owls are considered one of the largest scops native to the Philippines. They are also called “Otus Whiteheads,” “Whitehead Scops Owls,” and “Luzon Lowland Scops Owls.”

As night hunters, they have an ascending whistling call and are quite skilled at catching prey mid-air.

12. Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owl
Scientific Name:Megascops asio
Habitat:Wooded areas across Eastern North America
Size:6.3-9.8 inches
Diet:Small mammals, birds, and insects
Colorful Feature:Depending on the region, these owls can sport gray or rufous shades.

Another colorful owl species found in the east of the Rockies, the Eastern Screech Owl, inhabits wooded areas, suburbs, and parks.

Eastern Screech Owls are renowned for their camouflaging abilities. Their plumage can be gray or a rufous shade, allowing them to blend effectively into their surroundings. 

Their ear tufts are pointed and often raised. Another distinctive feature is their piercing yellow eyes.

These owls regurgitate the bones and feathers of their prey in an oval-shaped pellet. This is usually done once or twice a day.

13. Oriental Bay Owl

Oriental Bay Owl
Scientific Name:Phodilus badius
Habitat:Forests of Southeast Asia
Size:8.3-9.1 inches
Diet:Insects and small vertebrates
Colorful Feature:Warm brown hues mixed with streaks and spots

The Oriental Bay Owl is a sight to behold with its heart-shaped face and warm brown hues. Native to Southeast Asia, their colors make them blend effortlessly into their environment.

Oriental Bay Owls are small birds that reside in varied habitats, including evergreen forests and mangroves. 

Sadly, the population of Orientals Bay Owls in Samar Island, Philippines, was declared extinct in the 20th century. 

14. Northern Long-Eared Owl

Northern Long Eared Owl
Scientific Name:Asio otus
Habitat:Dense forests across North America
Size:13-16 inches
Diet:Primarily small mammals and occasionally birds.
Colorful Feature:A unique pattern of brown and white

Originating from North America, the Northern Long-Eared Owl is known for its distinct tufts that resemble ears. 

Their plumage is a mix of brown and white, which provides excellent camouflage against tree barks. This also aids their primarily nocturnal habits.

Northern Long-Eared Owls prefer roosting in trees during the day and become more active during the night. This is where they employ a sit-and-wait tactic to catch their prey.

15. Rufous-Legged Owl

Rufous Legged Owl
Scientific Name:Strix rufipes
Habitat:Dense temperate forests in southern South America
Size:12-15 inches
Diet:Rodents, birds, and insects
Colorful Feature:Body sports typical owl colors, but has rufous-colored legs.

Hailing from South America, the Rufous-Legged Owl is known for its deep brown eyes and reddish tint on their legs. 

These medium-sized owls have brown plumage with light streaks, helping them blend seamlessly into their environment.

Rufous-Legged Owls are solitary creatures that are highly territorial and predominantly nocturnal. They use their exceptional hearing to locate prey in dense forests.

16. Philippine Eagle Owl

Philippine Eagle Owl
Scientific Name:Bubo philippensis
Habitat:Lowland forests in the Philippines
Size:16-20 inches
Diet:Rodents, small mammals, and birds
Colorful Feature:Blend of rusty-brown, yellow, and white feathers

As one of the largest owls in their region, the Philippine Eagle Owl has a mesmerizing blend of colors. 

They stand out in the dense forests of the Philippines with their prominent ear tufts and a mix of rusty brown, yellow, and white plumage.

Philippine Eagle Owls are known for their deep, booming calls. They are nocturnal predators that use their powerful talons to catch and grip their prey.

17. Barred Eagle Owl

Barred Eagle Owl
Scientific Name:Bubo sumatranus
Habitat:Tropical rainforests and wooded areas in Southeast Asia
Size:16-18 inches
Diet:Small mammals, birds, and reptiles
Colorful Feature:Striking mix of gray and orange-brown

The Barred Eagle Owl is a captivating creature with large, soulful eyes. They originate from Southeast Asia.

They stand out against the dense tropical forest they inhabit due to their mix of gray and orange-brown plumage.

Barred Eagle Owls have a hauntingly melodic call that echoes through their territory, especially during breeding season. They are known to be aggressive defenders of their nests.

18. Northern Boobook

Northern Boobook
Scientific Name:Ninox japonica
Habitat:Forests and woodlands in Australia and Southeast Asia
Size:10-12 inches
Diet:Insects, small mammals, and occasionally birds
Colorful Feature:Pronounced white streaks on a brown body

The Northern Boobook from Australia and Southeast Asia is recognized by its dark crown and distinctive white streaks. Their face is framed by a dark border, giving them an intense look.

These birds are often mistaken for the Southern Boobook due to their similar appearance. However, Northern Boobooks have a different, more rapid call and are active hunters during the night.

Moreover, Northern Boobooks can be observed in urban areas that contain trees, such as small parks.

19. Brown Fish Owl

Brown Fish Owl
Scientific Name:Ketupa zeylonensis
Habitat:Forested areas close to freshwater in South Asia
Size:18-21 inches
Diet:Mainly fish, but also takes crustaceans and small amphibians
Colorful Feature:Brown and white plumage, along with a unique facial disk

The Brown Fish Owl, as the name suggests, specializes in catching fish. They are mainly found in South Asia, where they inhabit waterside wooded areas.

Brown Fish Owls exhibit a beautiful combination of brown and white plumage, with noticeable streaks across their body.

These owls have distinctive deep hoots and spend much of their time near water bodies where they watch intently for fish.

20. Northern White-Faced Owl

Northern White Faced Owl
Scientific Name:Ptilopsis leucotis
Habitat:Savannas, woodlands, and forests of West and Central Africa
Size:8-10 inches
Diet:Insects, birds, and small mammals
Colorful Feature:Stunning white facial disc surrounded by black lining

Hailing from Africa, the Northern White-Faced Owl stands out with their facial expressions, made more obvious by their white facial disc.

They also have large yellow-orange eyes that they can narrow to look like slits as part of their defense mechanism.

Further, these owls can modify their appearance from a slim, elongated shape to a broad-faced, intimidating look, depending on their mood or threat level.

Northern White-Faced Owls are renowned for their eerie echoing calls and nocturnal nature.

21. Stygian Owl

Stygian Owl
Scientific Name:Asio stygius
Habitat:Woodlands and forests across Central and South America
Size:15-18 inches
Diet:Birds, bats, and small mammals
Colorful Feature:Deep brown plumage with unique facial contrasts

The Stygian Owl is another colorful owl originating from Central and South America.

Their sad appearance adds to the character of these birds. Further, their dark brown body and contrasting white eyebrows give them an imposing look.

The calls of Stygian Owls are a series of deep hoots, and they have a characteristic silent flight, which aids in their nocturnal hunting.

22. Barking Owl

Barking Owl
Scientific Name:Ninox connivens
Habitat:Woodlands and open forests in Australia
Size:13-15 inches
Diet:Mammals, birds, and insects
Colorful Feature:Rich tan-brown plumage with white markings 

Named for its unique calls that resemble a dog’s bark, the Barking Owl is a medium-sized owl species native to Australia.

Their tan-brown plumage, with white spots and streaks, provides excellent camouflage in the woodland habitats they prefer. Their round, large eyes, yellow irises, and facial masks add to their intimidating look.

As dusk predators, Barking Owls have a series of vocalizations, including dog-like barking calls and eerie screams.

23. Ochre-Bellied Boobook

Ochre Bellied Boobook
Scientific Name:Ninox ochracea
Habitat:Forested areas of Sulawesi, Indonesia
Size:10-11 inches
Diet:Insects and small vertebrates
Colorful Feature:Brown upperparts with a distinguishing ochre-colored belly

The Ochre-Bellied Boobook, native to Indonesia, showcases a beautiful blend of browns with a distinctive ochre-colored belly.

Ochre-Bellied Boobooks are quite elusive, and not much is known about their behavior. They usually reside in subtropical or tropical dry forests or moist lowland forests.

Like many owls, Ochre-Bellied Boobooks are nocturnal and have a unique, repetitive call that resonates in their natural habitat.

24. Western Barn Owl

Western Barn Owl
Scientific Name:Tyto alba
Habitat:Varied habitats worldwide, including farmlands, woodlands, and urban areas
Size:12-16 inches
Diet:Mostly small mammals like rodents
Colorful Feature:Heart-shaped facial disc and contrasting pale and golden-brown feathers

The Western Barn Owl is widely distributed across many parts of the world. They are distinguished by their heart-shaped face and pale colors. They boast golden-brown upperparts and pure white underparts. 

Western Barn Owls are efficient hunters. They use their excellent low-light vision and hearing to locate prey from a perch or during flight.

Unfortunately, Western Barn Owls have short lifespans. Most of them die within a year, with their average life expectancy ranging from 1 to 2 years in the wild.

25. Pallid Scops Owl

Pallid Scops Owl
Scientific Name:Otus brucei
Habitat:Deserts and rocky terrains of North Africa and the Middle East
Size:7-8 inches
Diet:Insects, spiders, and occasionally small vertebrates
Colorful Feature:A mosaic of grays, browns, and whites

Native to the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East, the Pallid Scops Owl is a known master of camouflage due to their intricate patterns of gray, brown, and white.

This colorful feature helps Pallid Scops Owls blend into tree trunks and rocky terrains. Aside from their feathers, these small owls also have ear tufts that resemble horns.

Being nocturnal and elusive, Pallid Scops Owls have soft hooting calls that make them tough to spot.

26. Pearl-Spotted Owlet

Pearl Spotted Owlet
Scientific Name:Glaucidium perlatum
Habitat:Dry open savannahs and woodlands across sub-Saharan Africa
Size:6.5-7.5 inches
Diet:Mainly insects, small birds, and rodents
Colorful Feature:Mottle of white spots or “pearls” across its brown plumage

The Pearl-Spotted Owlet is a notable bird found predominantly in the sub-Saharan regions of Africa. This tiny owl offers a splendid visual experience.

Pearl-Spotted Owlets have distinctive false “eyes” on the back of their heads and delightful “pearl” spots on their upper parts.

Unlike many owls, these creatures are often active during the day, frequently being mobbed by other birds due to their tendency to prey on them.

27. Pharaoh Eagle-Owl

Pharaoh Eagle Owl
Scientific Name:Bubo ascalaphus
Habitat:Arid desert regions and rocky landscapes of North Africa and the Middle East
Size:18-20 inches
Diet:Birds, mammals, and large insects
Colorful Feature:A striking contrast between its bright orange eyes and the earthy brown body

The Pharaoh Eagle-Owl is a regal bird with bright orange eyes that highlight its well-defined facial discs. This feature also contrasts their robust brown and white streaked body.

Pharaoh Eagle-Owls dwell in the deserts of the Middle East and North Africa. They can be found in rocky deserts, mountain cliffs, and slopes with scattered trees and shrubs.

Mostly nocturnal, these owls often nest on cliffs, and their calls consist of deep, resonant hooting sounds.

28. Powerful Owl

Powerful Owl
Scientific Name:Ninox strenua
Habitat:Various forests and woodlands across Eastern and South-Eastern Australia
Size:24 inches
Diet:Medium to large tree-dwelling mammals, notably possums
Colorful Feature:Robust, brown upperparts and paler, stippled underparts

True to its name, the Powerful Owl of Australia is a formidable predator. They display their massive size along with their large, forward-facing, yellow eyes.

Known for their ability to target larger prey, Powerful Owls have impressive talons that are capable of preying on animals as large as possums. They also have haunting, wailing calls, and impressive flying capability.

I vividly recall an encounter with the majestic Powerful Owl during one of my field expeditions. As it was perched high in a eucalyptus tree, its intense, golden eyes fixated on me, exuding an aura of authority.

As I observed this magnificent creature, I observed the details of its coloration. The warm, rusty browns seamlessly blend with creamy whites, and their piercing eyes stand out like jewels in the night.

29. Short-Eared Owl

Short Eared Owl
Scientific Name:Asio flammeus
Habitat:Open areas like grasslands, marshes, and tundras worldwide
Size:13-17 inches
Diet:Small mammals, particularly voles
Colorful Feature:A delightful mélange of brown, tan, and white, with dark streaks

The Short-Eared Owl is among the most widespread owl species, inhabiting North and South America, Europe, Asia, and islands like Hawaii. 

They have visible ear tufts and a blend of brown, white, and tan across their bodies. These medium-sized owls also sport a rounded head and ear tufts that are usually not visible.

Short-Eared Owls are notably diurnal, which means they can be observed even during the daytime. They often display an impressive, moth-like flight pattern while hunting.

30. Southern White-Faced Owl

Southern White Faced Owl
Scientific Name:Ptilopsis granti
Habitat:Dry, open woodland and savannah regions across southern Africa
Size:8.5-10 inches
Diet:Mainly insects, but also birds and small mammals
Colorful Feature:Their face showcases a pristine white hue framed by bold black edges.

The Southern White-Faced Owl is adorned with a splendid white face encircled by a striking black border. This, combined with their deep, penetrating eyes, offers a mesmerizing sight.

Southern White-Faced Owls are endemic to the African subcontinent. They prefer savannas, wooded areas with nearby rivers, and dry open woods.

Being nocturnal, they keep to their roosts during the day and become more active at dusk. These owls often employ a soft yet eerie trilling call.

31. Tawny Owl

Tawny Owl
Scientific Name:Strix aluco
Habitat:Forested landscapes in Europe and Asia
Size:14-15 inches
Diet:Small mammals, birds, and invertebrates
Colorful Feature:Feathers display various shades of brown with an intricate mottling effect.

Coming from Europe and parts of Asia, the Tawny Owl is known for its rounded head and lack of ear tufts. Their brown, mottled plumage assists them in blending seamlessly into their woodland environments.

Tawny Owls are non-migratory owls, and they are highly territorial. They will often stay in one place unless they find a suitable, vacant territory to claim.

Exclusively nocturnal, their iconic “twit-twoo” call, though typically associated with owls, is actually a combination of calls from both male and female Tawny Owls.

32. Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl
Scientific Name:Bubo virginianus
Habitat:Forests, deserts, swamps, and urban areas across the Americas
Size:18-25 inches
Diet:A broad spectrum including birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians
Colorful Feature:A beautiful patchwork of browns, grays, and white, crowned with prominent tufted “ears”

The Great Horned Owl is iconic for its tufted “horns” or “ears.” They are quite dominant across the Americas.

Great Horned Owls exhibit a rich mix of browns, grays, and whites, providing them an aura of majesty and strength.

These powerful predators are known for their deep hooting calls. They have few natural enemies and are at the top of the food chain in their respective habitats. In fact, they are even known as one of the birds that eat carrion or dead animals.

I had the privilege of observing a family of Great Horned Owls in their natural habitat during a research expedition. 

As I stood beneath their towering tree nest, I was in awe of the gorgeous plumage of the adult owls. Their rich brown feathers were adorned with elegant bands.

The two fluffy owlets, with their downy plumage, contrasted the adults’. Their soft, snowy white plumage would later transform into the earthy tones of their parents.

33. Great Grey Owl

Great Grey Owl
Scientific Name:Strix nebulosa
Habitat:Boreal forests across the Northern Hemisphere
Size:24-33 inches
Diet:Small mammals, particularly rodents
Colorful Feature:Their gray plumage, dappled with darker spots and streaks

As one of the world’s largest owls, the Great Grey Owl presents an impressive stature. They have a round face surrounded by a “bowtie” of white and streaked plumage.

Great Gray Owls are also called Phantoms of the North or Great Gray Ghosts due to their aloof nature. They tend to avoid areas with people and prefer to quietly roost in meadows where they remain invisible.

Primarily crepuscular, these owls possess an acute sense of hearing that allows them to locate prey beneath deep snow.

34. Black and White Owl

Black and White Owl
Image credit: palocesar / Instagram
Scientific Name:Strix nigrolineata
Habitat:Forests and woodland clearings in Central America
Size:16-18 inches
Diet:Mainly insects, but will also eat small vertebrates
Colorful Feature:As the name suggests, a bold combination of black and white feathers

The striking contrast in the Black and White Owl’s plumage is remarkable. Native to Central America, these owls have a distinct appearance that sets them apart from other species of their kind.

The primary feathers of Black and White Owls have whitish bars, while the rest is a dark, sooty blackish-brown color. Their facial disc is a blackish hue, while the rims and eyebrows are speckled with black and white.

These owls are known to be very territorial, often defending their area with vigor. They have a range of calls, with some sounding like barks, which can be startling in the quiet of the night.

35. Mottled Wood Owl

Mottled Wood Owl
Scientific Name:Strix ocellata
Habitat:Wooded landscapes across India
Size:16-19 inches
Diet:Small mammals, birds, and insects
Colorful Feature:A fascinating mix of white and brown patches, creating a “mottled” look

Resident to the Indian subcontinent, the Mottled Wood Owl gets its name from its unique mottled appearance. They perfectly blend into their wooded surroundings with their white and brown patches.

Mottled Wood Owls are nocturnal, becoming active mainly during the late evening and early morning. During the day, they roost on hidden branches in pairs or sometimes in groups.

Male Mottled Wood Owls utters a laughing call during breeding season, which is a territorial song. Both sexes, on the other hand, are known for their melodic duets.

36. Madagascar Red Owl

Madagascar Red Owl
Scientific Name:Tyto soumagnei
Habitat:Dense rainforests of Madagascar
Size:9-10 inches
Diet:Unknown due to its elusive nature, but possibly small mammals and insects
Colorful Feature:Reddish-brown plumage with dark spots

The elusive Madagascar Red Owl is a remarkable species native to the rainforests of Madagascar. Their reddish-brown plumage and distinct facial disc make them stand out.

Being a rare species, not much is known about their behavior. Their nocturnal calls have been described as a raspy bark.

Madagascar Red Owls were thought to be extinct but were rediscovered in 1993. However, their conservation status remains “Vulnerable.”

37. Greater Sooty Owl

Greater Sooty Owl
Scientific Name:Tyto tenebricosa
Habitat:Rainforests and wet sclerophyll forests in eastern Australia
Size:14-17 inches
Diet:Small mammals, birds, and large insects
Colorful Feature:Dark sooty-gray plumage with spots and streaks

Originating from Australia, the Greater Sooty Owl is a medium to large-sized owl that sports a sooty-gray color. Their round, dark eyes and distinctive calls make them a birdwatcher’s delight.

Greater Sooty Owls are master predators in their habitat. They are notable for their chilling, eerie calls that resonate through the night forests.

They are also quite territorial. They are not oftentimes seen or heard, but they are thought to remain in a similar area for their entire lives as adults. 

Greater Sooty Owls are also known to hide in crevices, tree trunks, and caves during the daytime.

38. Chocolate Boobook

Chocolate Boobook
Scientific Name:Ninox randi
Habitat:Forested areas of the Philippines
Size:9-10 inches
Diet:Mainly insects
Colorful Feature:Beautiful chocolate-brown feathers, providing perfect camouflage in wooded terrains

Originating from the Philippines, the Chocolate Boobook stands true to its name with its rich, chocolate-brown plumage.

Among other Boobook species, Chocolate Boobooks are much larger, sporting brown wings and distinct reddish-brown streaks on their white underparts. 

These nocturnal birds have a series of distinctive calls, each varying in rhythm and pitch.

39. Elf Owl

Elf Owl
Scientific Name:Micrathene whitneyi
Habitat:Desert and wooded habitats in the southwestern U.S. and Mexico
Size:5-6 inches
Diet:Insects and spiders
Colorful Feature:Lightly mottled brown and white feathers

The Elf Owl, one of the smallest owl species, can be found in the southwestern United States and Mexico. Their petite size and captivating eyes make them truly an enchanting sight.

Unlike other owl species, Elf Owls don’t have ear tufts on their rounded heads. They have grayish-brown feathers and thin white eyebrows above their pale yellow eyes.

Despite their size, they are fearless and have been known to attack intruders. Their high-pitched calls can be heard during the night.

To learn more about Elf Owls, watch the video below:

Meet the World's Smallest Owl

40. Eastern Grass Owl

Eastern Grass Owl
Scientific Name:Tyto longimembris
Habitat:Grasslands and wetlands in Asia and northern Australia
Size:13-15 inches
Diet:Rodents and small mammals
Colorful Feature:Buff-colored feathers with a mix of brown and white mottling

The Eastern Grass Owl, as the name suggests, is often found in grasslands across parts of Asia and Australia. Their long legs are adapted to their habitat, allowing them to wade through tall grasses.

Eastern Grass Owls are mostly dark brown on their upperparts with streaks of yellow and white spots. Their underparts are whitish-cream in color, along with scattered dark spots.

As ground-nesting birds, they have a soft hoot and often use grassy areas for camouflage.

41. Northern Hawk-Owl

Northern Hawk Owl
Scientific Name:Surnia ulula
Habitat:Boreal forests across the northern hemisphere
Size:14-17 inches
Diet:Small mammals and birds
Colorful Feature:Brown with white spots and streaks, a distinguishing white face with a black border

The Northern Hawk-Owl displays characteristics of both hawks and owls. Sporting a long tail and hawk-like flight, they are a spectacular sight in the boreal forests.

Unlike most owls, Northern Hawk-Owls hunt primarily during the day. Their keen eyesight and swift flight make them formidable hunters.

Although they have less acute hearing than other owls, Northern Hawk-Owls can still find prey through sound and are capable of hunting animals under a foot of snow.

42. Tropical Screech Owl

Tropical Screech Owl
Scientific Name:Megascops choliba
Habitat:Tropical forests of South America
Size:7-9 inches
Diet:Insects, small mammals, and occasionally small birds
Colorful Feature:Grayish-brown plumage with streaks and spots

Native to the tropical regions of South America, the Tropical Screech Owl has feathers that are grayish-brown with fine markings, including thin white streaks on their underparts.

Tropical Screech Owls have diverse vocalizations, making them an interesting species to observe. Like other screech owls, they are easier identified by their sound.

Despite being nocturnal, they are occasionally seen during the day, especially if disturbed.

43. Eurasian Eagle-Owl

Eurasian Eagle Owl
Scientific Name:Bubo bubo
Habitat:Woodlands, mountains, and steppe across Europe and Asia
Size:24-29 inches
Diet:Wide range, including birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians
Colorful Feature:Brown feathers with black streaks and bright orange eyes

Among the largest species of owls, the Eurasian Eagle-Owl has tufts resembling “ears,” which are actually feathered extensions.

Eurasian Eagle-Owls sport mottled buff-brown feathers with dark streaks on the chest, wings, and tail. Their legs and feet are also feathered, which almost extends to their talons.

Possessing a deep and powerful hoot, they are top predators in their territory, often dominating other raptors. They are also known to prey upon younger owlets.

44. Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Northern Saw Whet Owl
Scientific Name:Aegolius acadicus
Habitat:Forests across North America
Size:7-8 inches
Diet:Primarily small mammals
Colorful Feature:Rich brown plumage with white streaks and spots

The Northern Saw-Whet is a compact owl with mottled brown feathers, a whitish facial disk, and a white-spotted head. They got their name from their call that sounds like a saw being sharpened on a whetting stone.

Although they’re small, these owls are fierce hunters, often preying on animals larger than themselves.

What is unique about them is their ears are uneven in height and shape. Since sounds reach each ear at different times and volumes, these owls can pinpoint exactly where their prey is located. 

45. Tawny Fish-Owl

Tawny Fish Owl
Scientific Name:Ketupa flavipes
Habitat:Dense forests near freshwater bodies in Southeast Asia
Size:18-20 inches
Diet:Fish, supplemented by amphibians and crustaceans
Colorful Feature:Tawny-brown feathers with a whitish face and yellow eyes

The Tawny Fish-Owl, with its intense gaze, is an impressive owl species native to parts of Southeast Asia. 

They have brown bodies with mottled brown feathers. However, their distinctive feature is their ear tufts, which droop sideways.

As the name implies, fish comprise a significant part of the Tawny Fish-Owl’s diet. Occasionally, they prey on small rodents, reptiles, and insects, as well.

Tawny Fish-Owls have specialized feathers that allow for silent flight, aiding them in catching fish from water bodies.

46. Spotted Wood Owl

Spotted Wood Owl
Scientific Name:Strix seloputo
Habitat:Forests, plantations, and urban parks in Southeast Asia
Size:18-20 inches
Diet:Rodents, birds, and large insects
Colorful Feature:Creamy-brown plumage with bold white spots

A prominent resident of Southeast Asia, the Spotted Wood Owl boasts striking patterns. Their large dark eyes, set against a contrasting pale face, give them a captivating look.

These large owls carry a chocolate brown head and an orange face with no ear tufts. Their underparts are a dull yellow color with dark, narrow bands.

Spotted Wood Owls are known to be more tolerant of human disturbance compared to other species. They are often found in pairs and have a haunting yet melodious call.

47. Guatemalan Pygmy Owl

Guatemalan Pygmy Owl
Image credit: naturebirdingtours / Instagram
Scientific Name:Glaucidium cobanense
Habitat:Montane forests in Central America
Size:6-7 inches
Diet:Insects and small vertebrates
Colorful Feature:Brown with white and buff streaks and spots

The Guatemalan Pygmy Owl is a petite owl native to Central America, including Guatemala, Mexico, and Honduras. 

They boast a predominantly brown plumage that aids in camouflage within their woodland habitat. They have two color varieties: red morph and brown morph.

Red morphs are predominantly bright rufous with indistinct pale markings. Meanwhile, brown morphs have brown to dark brown feathers with whiter pale markings.

Despite their tiny size, Guatemalan Pygmy Owls are effective hunters. Their sharp calls can often be heard echoing through their mountainous habitats.

48. Band-Bellied Owl

Band Bellied Owl
Scientific Name:Pulsatrix melanota
Habitat:Montane forests in the Andes
Size:14-16 inches
Diet:Small mammals and birds
Colorful Feature:Rich brown upperparts with contrasting pale, barred underparts

The Band-Bellied Owl, native to the Andes, is marked by its rich brown upperparts, banded belly, and white “X” on its dark brown face.

Band-Bellied Owls are mysterious birds. They often remain elusive and difficult to spot. Thus, not much is known about their behavior.

They have deep hoots that echo through their mountainous territories. Being top predators in their habitat, they play a crucial role in maintaining the ecological balance.

49. Ashy-Faced Owl

Ashy Faced Owl
Scientific Name:Tyto glaucops
Habitat:Open woodlands and savannahs in the Caribbean
Size:12-14 inches
Diet:Rodents, insects, and small birds
Colorful Feature:Predominantly brown plumage with a distinctive ashy-gray face

The Ashy-Faced Owl gets its name from its unique facial coloration. They have an ashen-gray face and buff-colored underparts.

Ashy-Faced Owls can be found in the Caribbean, especially on the island of Hispaniola. They inhabit areas near human settlements and are skilled hunters, adept at catching prey even in low-light conditions.

The ashy-faced owl makes a unique sound that starts with a hissing cry, followed by a series of higher-pitched, raspy clicks, and then a screeching call that lasts about 2 to 3 seconds, sounding something like “criiisssssh.”

50. Southern Boobook

Southern Boobook
Scientific Name:Ninox novaeseelandiae
Habitat:Forests, farmlands, and urban areas in Australia and parts of Papua New Guinea
Size:10-14 inches
Diet:Insects, small mammals, and other birds
Colorful Feature:Brown plumage with white streaks and spots

The Southern Boobook is the smallest owl found in Australia. They have brown plumage streaked with white coloration. They also have dark markings around their eyes that look like glasses.

Their endearing appearance is coupled with a distinctive, repetitive call from which their name is derived.

With a call resembling “boo-book,” these owls are nocturnal predators. They are often seen perched silently on a vantage point, waiting to swoop down on unsuspecting prey.

51. Fraser’s Eagle-Owl

Frasers Eagle Owl
Image credit: owlpages / Pinterest
Scientific Name:Bubo poensis
Habitat:Dense forests of central and west Africa
Size:18-20 inches
Diet:Birds, mammals, and large insects
Colorful Feature:Deep brown plumage with prominent ear tufts

The Fraser’s Eagle-Owl is a majestic sight in the forests of Africa. They were discovered by a British zoologist named Louis Fraser.

The plumage of Fraser’s Eagle-Owls is rufous and buffy brown, accented with darker bars. They also have striking orange eyes set against dark facial disks, along with fluffy ear tufts.

Fraser’s Eagle-Owls have a deep and resonating call. They’re primarily nocturnal and have a keen sense of detecting their prey from a distance.

52. White-Fronted Scops Owl

White Fronted Scops Owl
Scientific Name:Otus sagittatus
Habitat:Tropical moist lowland forests in Southeast Asia
Size:8-10 inches
Diet:Insects primarily, with some small vertebrates
Colorful Feature:Apart from the notable white forehead, they have an overall grey-brown appearance with patterns.

The White-Fronted Scops Owl is distinguished by a prominent white forehead and intriguing facial disc. These owls are a birdwatching target for owl enthusiasts in Southeast Asia.

The nocturnal nature of White-Fronted Scops Owls, combined with their incredible camouflage, makes them challenging to spot. Their calls, however, give away their presence in the dense forest.

Unfortunately, White-Fronted Scops Owls have a declining population and are considered “Vulnerable” due to the rapid destruction of lowland and foothill forests.

53. Buff-Fronted Owl

Buff Fronted Owl
Scientific Name:Aegolius harrisii
Habitat:Temperate forests in the Andes Mountains
Size:8-9 inches
Diet:Small mammals and birds
Colorful Feature:Their namesake buff forehead stands out against a largely brown body.

A nocturnal hunter indigenous to South America, the Buff-Fronted Owl has a body that is mostly chocolate brown with a creamy, rufous belly. They sport a pale face with a dark line that runs from the crown to the eyes. 

Buff-Fronted Owls are usually found in forest edges and open woodlands. They also inhabit man-made areas with fruit trees and palm plants.

The distinctive calls of Buff-Fronted Owls help in communication during the breeding season. They remain well-hidden during the day, relying on their plumage for camouflage.

54. Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl
Scientific Name:Athene cunicularia
Habitat:Grasslands, rangelands, and desert areas in North and South America
Size:7.5-10 inches
Diet:Insects, rodents, and small reptiles
Colorful Feature:Brown with white spots and distinctive long legs

The Burrowing Owl is one of the unique owls known to nest underground. Their feathers are sandy brown with white spots all over their bodies. They also have white eyebrows and a white chin patch.

Further, Burrowing Owls have bright yellow eyes and a charismatic demeanor.

These owls are versatile and can thrive in open areas, such as rangelands, grasslands, deserts, agricultural areas, and other dry areas across North and South America.

They are also diurnal, hunting during both day and night. Unlike other owl species, they nest in burrows that are often abandoned by prairie dogs.

Are There Owls of the Following Colors?

Here, we’ll discover whether owls can be found in some of the more unique and vibrant shades, separating fact from fiction:


When it comes to owls, blue is not a naturally occurring color in their plumage. Many owls display a range of browns, grays, whites, and even reddish hues, but a true blue owl doesn’t exist in the wild. 

However, photographs or artworks might depict owls in different shades, including blue, for artistic purposes or due to lighting conditions, but these do not reflect their natural coloration.


While owls boast a variety of patterns and shades, no owl sports a rainbow-colored plumage. Nature typically assigns colors to animals based on their environmental needs, primarily camouflage. 

A rainbow-colored owl would stand out, making it easier for predators to spot or hindering its hunting ability. Any rainbow-colored owl images found online are likely to be digital art or enhanced photographs.


Purple, like blue, is not a naturally occurring color in owl feathers. Owls have evolved their colors to best suit their habitats and hunting techniques. 

Purples and other vibrant shades would make them easily seen, defeating their stealthy nature. The primary shades of owls remain within the spectrum of browns, grays, and whites.


There aren’t any owls with a dominant green color. While some birds, especially those in tropical regions, display vibrant green shades to blend in with foliage, owls do not fall into this category. 

Their colors tend to be more muted, suiting their nocturnal lifestyles and the environments they inhabit.


Pink is another color not found in the natural plumage of owls. Their color palette only involves neutral tones, providing the best camouflage for their hunting and nesting habits. 

Pink or other brightly colored owls are likely the result of digital editing or expressions of art.

What Is the Most Colorful Owl?

Colorful owl in the forest

While many owls sport muted and neutral colors for camouflage, the Spectacled Owl stands out due to its distinctive dark brown body and contrasting white facial discs. 

The concentric brown rings around its eyes create a “spectacle” effect. This unique pattern differentiates the Spectacled Owls from their counterparts and makes them one of the more visually striking owl species.

What Colors Are Owl’s Feet?

An owl’s feet typically range from yellow to orange and, in some species, even a grayish hue. The coloration often complements its overall plumage. 

The strong, taloned feet of owls are designed for gripping and catching prey rather than for display, so their colors are less varied compared to other bird species.

What Colors Are the Eyes of Owls?

Owl with dark shade of brown and gray

Owl eyes come in a variety of shades, most commonly yellow, orange, and deep black. The color can sometimes give hints about their hunting habits. 

Owls with darker eyes tend to be nocturnal, while those with lighter-colored eyes might be diurnal or crepuscular. However, there are exceptions to this trend based on the needs of certain owl species.

What Colors Are the Feathers of Owls?

Owl feathers are mostly a blend of brown, gray, white, and reddish-brown. These colors aid in camouflage, which helps them blend into their environments. 

Some owls may have patterns like spots, bars, or streaks on their feathers, adding another dimension to their appearance and further assisting in concealment.

What Color Is an Owl’s Beak?

Owl beak up close

An owl’s beak can vary from pale yellow to dark black. The color largely depends on the species and its natural habitat. 

Additionally, the beak’s color can sometimes be used to identify specific owl species.

What Color Are Owls Eggs?

Owl eggs are typically white and almost spherical. The absence of color helps to hide the eggs along the light backdrop of nesting materials. 

This plain coloration ensures they remain hidden from potential predators.

What Color Are Owl Babies?

Baby owls side by side

Owl chicks, often referred to as “owlets,” are usually covered in white or cream-colored downy feathers when they hatch. 

As they grow, their juvenile feathers start to resemble the colors and patterns of their adult counterparts. This eventually aids in their camouflage and protection.

What Color Are Owls at Night?

Regardless of their actual color, owls would predominantly appear as silhouettes or dark shapes against the night sky. 

Their natural colors, combined with the low light conditions, make them nearly invisible, which is vital for their stealthy hunting strategies.

We hope this guide has provided you with insights into the different colors of an owl. If you have any thoughts or experiences to share, please leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

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