Owls are fascinating, unique, and somewhat mysterious creatures. What makes them unique from any other type of bird is that most owls are nocturnal – meaning they sleep during the day and are awake at night.
Famous for their big, wide-set, glowing eyes and near-silent flying, owls are able to see in much more detail in the dark, which helps them hunt and strike their prey.
With over 250 species of owls around the world, living in every continent except cold Antarctica, owls come in an array of different shapes and sizes and can live in vastly different climates.
One place you may not think owls would live in is Hawaii. Known for its tropical climate with beaches, forests, and urban areas, owls have adapted to living on the islands of Hawaii and have made it their home.
However, that being said, there are only two species of owls in Hawaii. So, you may need to keep your eyes peeled if you hope to see any.
Species Of Owls In Hawaii
The two species of owl that live in Hawaii are the non-native Barn owl and the native Hawaiian Short-eared owl, or the Pueo.
These owls can be seen all year round on the Hawaiian islands. Although, since they look quite similar, it can often be hard to tell them apart.
To make this easier for you, below is a complete guide to the Pueo and Barn owls.
Barn owls are one of the most widely distributed owls in the world. Since Barn owls are not native to Hawaii, they were first introduced to the islands in the 1800s as part of a scheme to fight the rising issue of rodents at the time. Their nocturnal habits made them perfect for this.
Adult Barn owls can reach a length of 14-20 inches, and their features consist of white, relatively flat, heart-shaped faces, dark eyes, and a pale bill, or beak.
A male owl’s underside is white, while a female is buffy (yellowish-borwon color).
You are more likely to see Barn owls in wide-open spaced areas, such as fields or meadows, swooping down to catch their prey.
As they are nocturnal, the best times to see them are during the evening and at dusk when they will be searching for their next meal.
They usually feed on small mammals, so anything from wood mice, shrews, field voles, bats, and rabbits, are among their favorites.
On the other hand, while these owls have helped to maintain the rodent population in Hawaii, they have been seen to pose a risk to the natural ecosystems on the islands.
As Barn owls are not native, some unknowing animals are oblivious to their nighttime eating habits, and as a result, many rare and even endangered animals have fallen prey to the Barn owl.
The other species of owl that lives in Hawaii are the Pueo owl. The Pueo owl is endemic, meaning it is only found in Hawaii. Unlike the Barn owl, which can be found all around the world.
Another difference between the owls is that the Pueo owl is a diurnal, or daytime, hunter – giving you a higher chance of seeing one during daylight hours.
They can usually be found gliding or soaring over wide-open areas looking for prey, a similarity they share with most owls. Whether this is mice, rats, or any small insects.
Their bright yellow eyes, mottled brown patterns, and brown beaks make them easily distinguishable from Barn owls – who are slightly larger in size and have small black eyes.
While these differences are easy to detect close up, they’re much harder to differentiate far away or in the air.
While the Pueo owl is native to Hawaii, they are still rare to see and are even listed as endangered on the Oahu island.
These birds of prey are highly sensitive to light, and Oahu has the highest light pollution out of the islands, leaving them dazed and prone to accidents.
In addition, the loss of habitat, “sick owl syndrome” (which may be related to pesticides), and collisions with vehicles have all sadly contributed to the decline of Pueo owls.
That being said, Pueo owls are deeply respected in Hawaiian culture and history. It is said that the ʻaumākua form is most famous in Pueo owls.
These are family gods which take the shape of animals such as lizards, sharks, and, of course, owls.
They act as a guardian to the family they’re connected to, protecting people and keeping their families from harm’s way.
All around the world, owls are known for their wisdom and knowledge. While there are hundreds of species across nearly every continent, there are only two species of owls in Hawaii: the Barn owl and the Pueo owl.
The Pueo owl is particularly special and unique to Hawaii and from other owls. While most owls are nocturnal, the Pueo is diurnal.
They are also deeply connected and celebrated in Hawaiian history and culture.
While they are becoming increasingly rare and endangered, conservation efforts have been made to try to help these beautiful owls from extinction, so they can thrive in their native habitat.
Hopefully, this article has informed you that there are, in fact, owls in Hawaii – while there are not many species, this only makes the ones there more special.