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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.

baby great horned owl on the treesen 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.

Spotted owl in camouflage colors sitting on a bare tree branch with snow in winter in Gatineau national park, Quebec, Canada, selective focus, side viewkristof 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 15 to 19 inches, 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 threatened in the United States, which means that like these 14 beautiful animals, they could disappear during your lifetime.

Owl on rockJulie A. Curtis/Shutterstock

Can you spot my tufts?

Owls everywhere are hooting about the great horned owl tufts. They look like ears or horns but they’re actually tufts of feathers. (Just for the record, their ears are on the side of their head.) This beauty blends in naturally with the Sedona clay color of the pitted rock cliff it’s perched on. Although mated great horned owls are monogamous—like these 11 monogamous animals that mate for life—when it comes time to nap and roost they like their own separate spaces.

Barn Owl. Tyto alba.LFRabanedo/Shutterstock

Catchin’ a few winks

Farmers don’t mind barn owls taking up residence in the rafters because they’re considered a good omen. 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.

Adult Burrowing owl Athene cunicularia perched outside its burrow on Marco Island, FloridaSunflowerMomma/shutterstock

Blending in

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

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.Coatesy/Shutterstock

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 go by little owls. These cuties are of the cavity-nesting species, which means they dwell in tree and rock cavities, cliff crevices, and man-made structures and even the nests, holes, and burrows of other animals. You’ll find them in Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Another shocking thing about these cuties? Owls don’t actually have eyeballs, which is one of the most interesting facts about them.

Collared Scops Owl resting on tree branch in ranthambhore national parkkavisimi/Shutterstock

Crackle camo

Just look how well this collared scops owl blends in with the tree. If he weren’t looking straight into the camera, his big dark eyes would blend in with the hold in the tree. And the dark streaks in his belly pick up the crackling texture and colors of the bark in his nesting tree.

Eastern Screech Owlgmeland/shutterstock

Tree camo

If it weren’t for the tail feathers that break the line of the tree, you would think this Eastern screech owl got his feathery camo coat from REI—even the tufts are identical to the tree bark. By day, they hang out quietly in the nooks and crannies of any tree east of the Rockies, but dusk brings out the crooner in this owl. It’s known for being very vocal, but it doesn’t screech as its name implies—it actually sounds like whinnies and trills. Find out other fascinating “facts” about animals we have all wrong.

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 three and six pounds. Maybe that’s why they don’t like trees; it’s easier for them to get around in the wide-open spaces of fields and shorelines. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, John James Audubon once saw a Snowy Owl lying at the edge of an ice hole, waiting patiently for fish and once it spotted on, caught it using its talons.

Red Phased Eastern Screech owl camouflagedcindylindowphotography/shutterstock

Holl’ow about you let me sleep?

It’s mind-boggling how much the plumage of this Eastern screech owl looks like the bark of the tree it is 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. Standing dead trees are a favorite of Screech-owl because they become infested with bugs and make a nice snack between a meal of mice.

Short eared owl hidden in between a fieldMenno Schaefer/Shutterstock

Daytripper

Many owls spend their day roosting and napping, but the short-eared owl is active during the daylight, so they’re easier to see than most owls but even in the sunlight this owl would be easy to miss as it effortlessly blends into a harvested crop. Farmland, tundras, and inland and coastal prairies are home for the Short-eared Owl. It flies low over the fields with a floppy wingbeat resembling a giant moth before hovering and killing its prey.

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

Naptime

According to Animal Planet, there are more than 45 different varieties of scops owls in the world. Can you see the two here, snoozing the day away at the Kanha National park, 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, but what really comes in handy is their ability to be virtually invisible. When the owl senses danger, it stretches its body make it look leaner and sways back and forth to look like a tree branch gently blowing in the breeze.

Burrowing Owl Hiding in PipeC S Perry Jr/Shutterstock

Squatter’s rights

Owls are known for taking over other critter’s 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-colored feathers. Since burrowing owls spend their time on the ground or in a burrow, they have longer legs than owls that perch in trees. Their longs leg give them more height to see predators and help them sprint from danger. Next, see if you can spot these camouflaged critters.

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Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a Baltimore-based writer who writes regularly about pets and home improvement for Reader's Digest. Her work has also been published in The Healthy, HealthiNation, The Family Handyman, Taste of Home, and Realtor.com., among other outlets. She's also a certified personal trainer and walking coach for a local senior center. Follow her on Instagram @lisamariewrites4food and Twitter @cornish_conklin.