three owls sitting on a tree branch looking at the camera
Three barred owls perch on the same branch together over Emery Path in Acadia National Park, ME on June 19, 2018. (Photo by Friends of Acadia/Emma Forthofer)

Are you afraid of the dark? As humans, sight, our strongest sense, fails us at night. To compensate for this loss, sounds feel louder, scents smell stronger, and we may feel more vulnerable. But the eyes of owls and other nocturnal wildlife are built for the night. This and other adaptations makes owls one of the most fascinating raptors to see while at Acadia.

Though owls are nocturnal, they are also active during the day. On their silent wings they fly from tree branch to tree branch.

Protecting Acadia's Owls

You can make a difference in the life of Acadia's owls and carry these valuable practices home with you.

  • Keep your distance from any owls spotted in wild and use long scopes for up close photos instead of approaching any wildlife.
  • At home, avoid any use of poisons to kills rodents or other creatures that owls my eat for food.
  • Protect Acadia's night skies by learning about light pollution, turning off any unnecessary lights at night and installing down lighting wherever possible.

Barred Owls

Barred owls are the most widespread owl in the eastern United States. Like many owls, they prey on rodents, reptiles and amphibians, smaller birds, and even other owls. Barred Owls roost on branches and in tree cavities during the day and hunt by night. They are territorial throughout year and need their space.

Barred Owls are forest birds. They tend to occur in older forests, and they need large, dead trees for nest sites; these requirements make them sensitive to expansion of logging. For this reason, the Barred Owl is often used as an indicator species for managing old forests.

Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl is the most widespread owl in the United States They can be found in almost any habitat, they often are found around suburbs but gravitate toward secondary-growth woodlands, swamps, orchards, and agricultural areas, but they are found in a wide variety of deciduous, coniferous or mixed forests.

Great Horned Owls have the most diverse diet of all North American raptors. Although they are usually nocturnal hunters, Great Horned Owls sometimes hunt in broad daylight. They are active mostly during the night—especially at dusk and before dawn. They usually adopt a nest that was built by another species, but they also use cavities in live trees, dead snags, deserted buildings, cliff ledges, and human-made platforms. Around Acadia they’ve been known to use former hawk or Osprey nests.

Mated pairs are monogamous and defend their territories with vigorous hooting. Great Horned Owls respond to intruders and other threats with bill-clapping, hisses, screams, and guttural noises, eventually spreading their wings and striking with their feet if the threat escalates.

white owl sits upon exposed rock
Snowy owls often perch on high rocks or trees to give them a better vantage point.

Image courtesy of visitor Nathaniel Child. Image used with permission.

Snowy Owl

Most people who come to Acadia will never have the opportunity to see a snowy owl. During the summer, snowy owls live in the arctic tundra. Out in that open space, snowy owls hunt for rodents and raise their young. Like most owls, snowy owls are able to hunt at night. But, up in the arctic where the sun might not set all day, these owls are successful hunters during the day as well. As the breeding season ends, snowy owls begin to disperse all across Canada and much of the northern part of the United States. During the winter, snowy owls descend upon Acadia's mountains.

The barren summits of Acadia's mountains provide enough open space for snowy owls to live all winter long. Although there are over 20 summits in the park, very few of them support snowy owls. When hiking in Acadia, be very wary of impacting snowy owls. Snowy owls are very skittish and oten get very stressed by human presence. Keep a safe distance and learn how to safely enjoy Acadia's summit ghosts.


More About Acadia's Owls

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    Last updated: March 22, 2022

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