Can You Spot the Owls Camouflaged in These Photos?

These owls are probably watching your every move, but you wouldn't know it because their plumage is perfectly camouflaged.

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baby great horned owl on the tree
sen yang/Shutterstock

Camouflaged cuteness

Look closely and you’ll see a fuzzy and plumb little owlet in the nook of this tree. This adorable owlet is of the great horned owl species and will grow up to be a fierce and aggressive predator—often called the “tiger owl.” But for now, he’s content to stick close to the nest until he learns to fly at about nine to ten weeks of age. His parents are always nearby to protect and feed him until he is several months old.

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Spotted owl in camouflage colors sitting on a bare tree branch with snow in winter in Gatineau national park, Quebec, Canada, selective focus, side view
kristof lauwers/Shutterstock

This is my good side

Contrary to popular belief, owls can’t rotate their heads 360 degrees, but they come close at 270 degrees, as this northern spotted owl seems to be doing. It’s a fairly large owl at 40 to 50 centimetres, with chocolate or chestnut feathers with a puffy round head and irregular white spots, which give the owl its name. They prefer old-growth forests as their habitat, so they’re affected in areas of clear-cut logging. Their status is endangered in Canada, which means that like these other endangered animal species, they could disappear during your lifetime.

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Owl on rock
Julie A. Curtis/Shutterstock

Can you spot my tufts?

Those sprouts on either side of the great horned owl’s head look like ears or horns but they’re actually tufts (feathers). This beauty blends in naturally with the Sedona clay colour of the pitted rock cliff it’s perched on. Although mated great horned owls are monogamous—like these other animals that mate for life—when it comes time to nap and roost they like their own separate spaces.

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Barn Owl. Tyto alba.

Catchin’ a few winks

Farmers don’t mind barn owls taking up residence in the rafters because they’re considered a good omen. Well, that and the fact that when they’re not napping like this one, they feed on mice and rats. According to the National Audubon Society, these owls with a ghostly appearance also like to reside high above the ground in a church steeple or perched on crevices under bridges. This one is peaceful now, but if she discovers you nearby, you’ll see the trademark bob and weave and inquiring piercing stare. That’s just her way of checking you out.

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Adult Burrowing owl Athene cunicularia perched outside its burrow on Marco Island, Florida

Blending in

You won’t find this pair nesting in a quiet forest high in a tree. Nope, burrowing owls are lovers of open areas, like golf courses, airport grounds, and, in this case, a ground burrow. According to the Owl Research Institute, because they spend long periods underground where gas can reach higher levels, burrowing owls have a higher tolerance for carbon dioxide than their tree-loving owl cousins.

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Three Little Owls in the hollow of a tree. Little Owl is the name of the species and not the size of the owl. Latin name: Athene noctua. Landscape.

Trio of cuteness

If it weren’t for the bright yellow eyes and prominent eyebrows, you might not be able to spot this petite threesome camouflaged by the tree bark. Their scientific name is Athlene noctu, but they’re commonly known as “little owls.” These cuties are of the cavity-nesting species, which means they dwell in holes in trees, rocks, man-made structures and even the nests and burrows of other animals. You’ll find them in Europe, Asia, and North Africa. 

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Collared Scops Owl resting on tree branch in ranthambhore national park

Crackle camo

Just look how well this collared scops owl blends in with the tree! If he wasn’t looking straight into the camera, he’d be nearly invisible against the texture and colours of the bark in his nesting tree.

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Eastern Screech Owl

Tree camouflage

If it weren’t for the tail feathers that break the line of the tree, you’d likely never have spotted this Eastern screech owl. By day, members of this species hang out quietly in the nooks and crannies of trees east of the Rockies, but dusk brings out the crooner in this owl. It’s known for being very vocal, but it doesn’t actually screech as its name implies: rather, it’s call sounds like whinnies and trills.

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Snowy owl hidden in beach grass.
Josh Bukoski 1/Shutterstock

Ice fishing

You could easily walk right past this snowy owl camouflaged in the snow-covered beach grass and never know it was there. It’s one of the largest owls in North America, weighing between 1.4 and 2.7 kilograms.

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Red Phased Eastern Screech owl camouflaged

Just trying to grab some shut-eye

It’s mind-boggling how much the plumage of this Eastern screech owl looks like the bark of the tree on which it’s perched. But wait, there’s another owl there too! Look closely, because its eyes are closed, making it even harder to spot. Give up? The second owl is in the hollow of the tree, just beneath the patch of snow-covered bark. Dead trees are a favourite of screech owls because they’re often infested with bugs which make a nice snack between meals of mice.

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Short eared owl hidden in between a field
Menno Schaefer/Shutterstock


Many owls spend their day roosting and napping, but the short-eared owl is active during the daylight. This makes them easier to spot than their nocturnal cousins, but even in the sunlight this owl would be easy to miss, as it effortlessly blends into the backdrop of a harvested field. Farmland, tundras and prairies are home to the short-eared owl. It flies low over the fields with a floppy wingbeat resembling a giant moth.

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A pair of Scops Owls demonstrate their camouflage as they sleep during the day at Kanha National park, Madhya Pradesh, India
Graham D Elliott/Shutterstock


According to Animal Planet, there are more than 45 varieties of scops owls in the world. Can you see the two here, snoozing the day away at the Kanha National Park, in Madhya Pradesh, India? Stumped? Look at the base of the hollow, on the left. One owl is facing the camera, and the other owl is nestled next to it. Their feathers have an exceptional similarity to the tree bark. When the scops owl senses danger, it stretches its body to make it look leaner and sways back and forth to disguise itself as a tree branch gently blowing in the breeze.

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Burrowing Owl Hiding in Pipe
C S Perry Jr/Shutterstock

Squatter’s rights

Owls are known for taking over other critters’ nests but burrowing owls like this won’t turn up their beak at a rusty pipe either. And we can’t blame her. She’s perfectly concealed with her matching rusty-coloured feathers. Since burrowing owls spend their time on the ground (or under it!), they have longer legs than owls that perch in trees. Their extra height helps them to see predators and make a quick sprint to safety.

Ready for another challenge? See if you can spot the animals camouflaged in these photos!

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