Types of Diurnal Owls

As we know, most owls are nocturnal. There are also many crepuscular owls, meaning they are active during dawn and dusk. Diurnal owls are a pretty exclusive category though, as there are only two truly diurnal owls, the Northern Pygmy Owl and the Northern Hawk Owl.

The Northern Pygmy Owl

northern pygmy owlThe Northern Pygmy Owl doesn’t really live up to its “Northern” designation as its range reaches from Canada all the way down in to Central American including Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala.

They definitely live up to the “Pygmy” designation though, as they only grow to be just under 6 inches long.

Unlike their nocturnal brethren who silently take flight to prowl for food in the night, the Northern Pygmy Owl prefers to sit and wait during the day for an opportunity to present itself. They wait in branches, watching for prey, and are known to snatch insects and small birds mid-air.


The Northern Hawk Owl

northern hawk owlUnlike the Northern Pygmy Owl, the Northern Hawk Owl does indeed live up to its “Northern” designation. It is found around the world in the Taiga, or boreal forest. This owl can be found in the Northern parts of North American (mostly in Canada), Europe (mostly in Scandanavia), Eurasia (in Russia) and Asia (mostly in China). This owl has also been known to creep southward into the northern parts of the United States and into Great Britain in times when prey is plentiful.

Size-wise, this owl can reach sizes ranging from 14 to 16 inches with the females being slightly larger than the males.

This diurnal owl hunts much the same way as its little Pygmy cousin in that it waits and observes the area for prey. It mostly feeds on small to medium sized mammals but is also known to feed on birds which it can catch mid-flight. Due to its superb hearing, this owl can also locate animals under the snow, and can dive straight into the snow to snatch prey that is lying beneath.

There you have it, a nice overview of the only two known diurnal species of owls. If you have any questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.



{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Roshan Kadaramandalagi K


Thanks for the interesting article. I was specifically looking for diurnal owls and i got the information here.
By the way I read in a book that some fishing owls are daytime owls without feathered feet (read relatively noisy).
If the above 2 are the only daytime owls, then are these fishing owls?

warm regards,



The owls here are not fishing owls. As far as I know, no fishing owl is diurnal, but the Blakiston’s Fishing Owl is crepuscular meaning it is active at dusk and dawn, but not usually during the day.



Is this limited to a particular region? Otherwise there’s a pretty glaring omission with the Snowy Owl



Good point.

Snowy owls are active during both day and night. I’m not sure, but I suspect this has something to do with the fact that days can be extremely long during certain times of the year – they can’t just hunt during the brief night during these times, so they’ve adapted to just hunt when they can whether or not the sun is out. I kind of wonder if the times they hunt are in any way associated with what the rest of the world would consider “night,” but I can’t find any research on that.

Either way, some scientists consider the snowy owl diurnal, and some don’t because they aren’t strictly diurnal.


Leave a Comment

Previous post: