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Where Do Owls Live? What Countries? What Habitats?

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silver barn owl standing on tree stump

Owls are extremely interesting birds of prey that live all over the world. More than 200 species exist, each with unique traits that allow them to live in their environment. If you are an owl lover or have one near your home, keep reading while we look into which countries have the highest number of owl species and what types of habitats you are most likely to find these birds living in.

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Which Countries Do Owls Live In?

Blakistons fish owl in forest
Image Credit: Agami Photo Agency, Shutterstock

You can find owls in every country of the world except Antarctica. They are also extremely rare in Greenland, and you will only likely find them around the coast. Also, some of the extreme northern islands of Russia do not have owls. In the United States, you can find them in all 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii.

Owl Habitats and Nesting

The majority of owls are nocturnal animals that are extremely reclusive. They blend in well with their surroundings and can remain motionless, moving only their head, so it’s not surprising that many people have never seen one despite owls living in every state in America.


Owls do not spend a lot of time creating elaborate nests and prefer to take over an abandoned bird nest when they can. An abandoned crow, hawk, or blue heron nest is a perfect size and will be their first choice. If they can’t find an abandoned nest, they will likely choose a hole in a tree or cactus, and if none are available, they will look for something similar where they can get good protection without doing a lot of work.

Why Do Many Owls Live in Barns?

barn owls in their home
Image Credit: PJR-Photography, Shutterstock

Owls fly slowly and silently. The wide-open fields and roadways of a farm create an ideal hunting ground for these animals. Barns are typically centrally located and have small openings or an open window the owl can use to enter the barn and make an easy nest in the rafters.

Do Owls Change Habitats?

Owls are predatory animals that depend on the local food source, and if this food source gets low, the owl will move. Many factors can contribute to the owl running out of food, including too many owls or other predators in the same area. Owls primarily eat small rodents, similar to other birds of prey like the falcon and hawk.

The most dangerous predator for these small rodents, however, is often the common house cat, which will kill mice even if it’s not hungry. A small population of feral cats can easily diminish the local food population enough to drive off the owl. Climate and environmental change can also cause an owl to find a new home.

What is an Owl Box?

wooden owl box attached to tree
Image Credit: CarlsPix, Shutterstock

An owl box is a human-constructed owl nest. It’s basically a large square or rectangular bird’s nest with a design specifically for the owl that you can place in a barn or at the top of a large pole to encourage an owl to use it. You can build one with spare wood or purchase one commercially, and they work quite well, especially if you live near a large open field that the owl can use to hunt.

How To Find an Owl Nest

  1. Do some basic research into what species of owls live in your area. Find out everything you can about these owls, especially what they look like, how large they are, and what type of environment they like to call home. Do the owls in your area prefer barns or trees? Some species even boroughs in the ground.
  2. Use the information you’ve learned in the first step to find places in your area that owls are likely to live. You will usually look for wooded areas like state parks with large open areas nearby where the owl can fly slowly and capture mice and other small rodents.
  3. Walk into a grove or wooded area without underbrush slowly while carefully listening for the characteristic “hoot” sound. Owls will usually make this sound any time of the day, but it is easier to hear at night.
  4. If you hear the sound or are sure there is an owl nearby, you should begin looking at the base of the tree trunks for owl poop. It looks like most other bird poop, but you find it at the bottom of a tree instead of on your vehicle. You might also find owl pellets, clumps of feathers and bones, and are the remains of food the owl has eaten.
  5. Once you find owl poop, you can start to look up the tree for areas that the owl might use as a nesting location. Broken branches, holes, and indentations are good places that the owl might use as a nest.
  6. If you find an owl nest, there is a good chance there will be one or more owls inside, especially if you visit during the day, so use caution that you don’t disturb them.


Owls live all around the world, and even though many of us have never seen one, they’re not hard to find. The vast majority of these large birds are nocturnal though there are a few species you might see during the day, and they prefer to take over abandoned nests or use a natural protective shelter instead of building a nest.

Featured Image Credit: Conzales, Pixabay

About the Author Ed Malaker

Ed Malaker is a veteran writer who contributes to a wide range of blogs covering information on computer programming, pets, birding, tools, fitness, guitars, and optics. Outside of writing, Ed is often found working in the garden or performing DIY projects in the house. Ed is also a musician, spending his time composing music for independent films or helping people repair their guitars.