Do Owls Come Out During The Day? Questions Answered

by Derrick | Last Updated: October 3, 2022

Many people assume when it comes to owls and considering their sleeping behaviors that all owls sleep during the day and are awake at night, but that simply isn’t true.

Do owls sleep during the day? Yes, owls with dark-colored eyes do sleep during the day. Some examples of owls that sleep during the day are barn owls and barred owls.

Does Eye Color Determine What Time Of Day An Owl Sleeps?

Yes, generally speaking, an owl’s eye color will determine at what time of day they typically sleep.

Darker Eyes Are Generally Nocturnal Owls

Most owls have darker eyes and are therefore nocturnal, meaning they sleep during the day and are awake at night. Some owls have dark eyes because they are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk.

Dark Eyes

Nocturnal or crepuscular owls prefer hunting at night and can catch their prey in either total darkness or dusk/during twilight periods. Their dark eyes don’t help them see their prey better, but it helps camouflage the owl at night.

If you do happen to see an owl with dark eyes during the day this is a rare moment. Be thankful you get to experience this.

The following are examples of owls that have dark eyes:

Barn owls

Barn owls are one of the most common species of owl in the world and even one of the most widespread of all birds across all species. Barn owls are found almost everywhere in the world except for the polar areas with extreme cold and desert regions with extreme heat.

Barn owls are pale and have distinctly dark eyes. They have a mix of light yellowish-brown color with gray on the head, back, and upper part of the wings. They are mostly white on the face, the rest of the body, and under the wings.

Barred owls

Barred owls are robust and stocky birds with smooth heads, no ear tufts, and medium-length, rounded tails. They are mostly mixed brown and white/gray with sometimes a slightly lighter barring on their chest and belly. Their eyes are dark in color and their beaks are yellow.

Elf Owl

The elf owl is the smallest owl in North America. They are mostly found in the southwestern United States, making a home in holes found in saguaro cacti. They are mostly gray-brown in color, with darker streaks on their heads and wings. They have very large eyes, which are almost all black and their beaks are gray.

Lighter Eyes Are Generally Diurnal Owls

There are also owls with lighter eyes which makes them diurnal, meaning they sleep at night and are awake during the day. So, in answer to the question posed in the title of this article, yes, generally speaking, an owl’s eye color will help someone identify if they sleep during the day or not.

What Owls Are Awake During The Day?

Some examples of owls that are awake during the day would include the snowy owl, great horned owl, and elf owl.

Snowy Owl

The snowy owl is a large, white owl with a rounded head and no ear tufts. They are native to the Arctic tundra regions of North America and Eurasia.

Snowy owls are usually only active during the day in the winter when they are hunting and feeding.

Great Horned Owl

The great horned owl is the most common owl in North America. They are large owls, with a wingspan of up to 5 feet, and they have brown feathers with some white markings.

Great Horned Owls switch hunting patterns to a crepuscular (dawn and dusk) and even diurnal time sequence depending on their nutritional needs and availability of prey.

Northern Hawk Owl

Northern Hawk Owl behaves like a hawk but one look at it and you can tell it is an owl. Its oval body, yellow eyes, and round face enclosed by dark parentheses, there is no mistaking it for anything but an owl. Northern Hawk Owls are active during the day.

Northern Pygmy Owl

The Northern Pygmy Owl is small and compact, with a large, circular head that lacks ear tufts. The tail is long and the wings are fairly short and rounded. They are mostly brownish gray with some lighter spots and bars. They have yellow eyes and a white throat. The Northern Pygmy Owl is diurnal.

Where Do Owls Tend To Sleep?

Depending on the species of owl, certain locations may be more attractive than others. Some owls will sleep in tree branches near their hunting grounds so that they may hunt again as soon as they leave the roost. For example, barn owls have been roosting in a variety of rural structures and tree cavities. Burrowing owls will dig a hole and hide inside it.

Many owls will roost during their rest periods solitary (by themselves), but some species of owls do roost together.

You will often find owls roosting during the day in open areas in trees near fields or meadows where they can watch for potential prey.

Some owls will sleep in burrows (usually in large trees), while others may burrow in rocks in cliffs.

What Happens If You See An Owl During The Day?

Generally speaking, if you see an owl during the day it is because that particular owl is a daytime owl. There are different species of owls that are awake during the day and those would be the ones you would see if you happen to spot one.

Sometimes owls that are crepuscular (out at dusk) or nocturnal (out at night) will be spotted during the day. Usually, this means the owl is sick, potentially injured or the owl’s roosting area has been disturbed.

What Time Do Owls Come Out?

Owls will usually come out at dusk, that perfect time right before it gets dark. This is when owls will usually start hunting prey, as they are retreating to their resting spot for the night.


Wrapping up I hope this article was helpful in explaining why different types of owls sleep during different times of the day and why it is a common misconception that all owls sleep during the day.