Owls in Norway

Most people are fascinated by owls—probably the reason why they appear in so many myths, legends, and fairy tales through the history. However, there is no wonder why people are so captivated by owls. Unlike other birds, their faces are flat and round, giving them somewhat humanlike characteristics. Both eyes are directed forwards, like with us. But unlike them, we humans cannot twist our heads the way the owls do. Neither can we stare as long and intensely without blinking.
Another impressive thing owls do is their completely soundless flight.

How Many Owl Species Are Present in Norway?
In Norway, there are 9 regularly breeding owl species: Great Grey Owl, Eurasian Pygmy-Owl, Ural Owl, Boreal Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, Tawny Owl, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, and Eurasian Eagle-Owl. In addition, the Snowy Owl sporadically shows up.
Most of these are nocturnally active.

Owls in Norway

Can Owls Turn Their Head All the Way Around?
No. Like other birds, their heads can be turned about 180 degrees. But because of the shape of their heads and the position of their eyes, owls have to turn their heads more often than other birds. In addition, because of the apparent lack of neck, it looks pretty funny when an owl turns its head.
So that is probably why we tend to notice the owl’s head movement, giving the impression that the head is turned all the way around.

Are Owls Protected?
All owl species in Norway are protected.

Are Owls Migrating Birds?
Short-eared Owl and Long-eared Owl are the only regularly migrating owls in Norway.

Are All Owls Nocturnally Active?
Most owls are nocturnally active. Short-eared Owl and Northern Hawk Owl are partially active by day. Some owls are also active by dusk or dawn.

When is the Best Time to Find Owls?
Early spring, from mid-February through mid-April, gives the best chances of hearing owls in the right areas. You have to be prepared to go out by night, and you need to be patient and try different places. The best conditions are clear weather, no or light wind, and preferably mild temperatures. Drive or walk along a logging road, while stopping at regular intervals to listen for sounds. Some owls also sing in the autumn, oftentimes making other sounds than in the spring.

How Can You Recognize Owl Sounds?
You can learn to recognize the sounds using an app with bird sounds.
Some owls rarely make sounds before it is completely dark, for example Ural Owl, Great Grey Owl, Boreal Owl, and Tawny Owl. Unlike these, Short-eared Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, Eurasian Pygmy-Owl, and Eurasian Eagle-Owl often sing by dusk or dawn.

Which Owl is the Easiest to Find?
Boreal Owl, Eurasian Pygmy-Owl, and Tawny Owl are the easiest to hear in the early spring. During the breeding season, the Short-eared Owl will probably be the easiest to find, at daytime often hunting over low wetlands, moors and open terrain in the mountains. The Northern Hawk Owl, also active by day and living in the willow mountain regions, is rarer. However, this owl is a so-called invasive species, so some years, it can be seen in greater numbers. The Northern Hawk Owl will most of the time sit in the top of a tree watching for prey. Therefore, spotting it should not be that difficult if it is in the area. Additionally, the Northern Hawk Owl is not easily frightened, so the opportunity to preserve the memory by taking a picture will hopefully not pass too quickly.

Where Can You Find Owls in Norway?
The answer depends on which owl species you would like to see or if you are more interested in hearing their sounds. The owls are namely found in different kind of biotope.
Great Grey Owl, Ural Owl, Boreal Owl, and Eurasian Pygmy-Owl will often be found in coniferous forest and mixed forest. Long-eared Owl and Tawny Owl feel comfortable in cultural landscapes. The Short-eared Owl lives in open areas, whether it is in the mountain or forest or along the coast. The Northern Hawk Owl prefers mountain terrain with mountain birch and higher-growing coniferous forest.
The Eurasian Eagle-Owl breeds in forests with hills, steep cliffs, and rocks. But it also breeds by the coast and skerries.
The Snowy Owl rarely breeds in Norway and only in years with many small rodents. In these instances, you will find them in the bare mountains or in Finnmark—where the landscape is equally bare—and possibly also in Svalbard.

The chances of finding owls increase considerably if you hit the right time of the year.


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Recommendations on Places to Look for Owls in Norway

As more birding localities are added, the list will be updated.