Information is based on dictionaries and other sources. Comments and corrections welcome.
The ordinary popular name for owls of all sorts, especially owls with 'ears', is 貓頭鷹 'cat-headed hawk'.
This term does not figure at all in the Chinese official names. Instead, most of the owls are known by the literary name 鴞 . (While of literary origin, the term 鴞鳥 'owl-bird' may also occasionally be seen in modern contexts). Specific names for owl genera include:
- Scops owls: 角鴞 'horned-owl'
- Wood owls: 林鴞 'forest-owl'
- Fish owls: 漁鴞 'fishing-owl'
- Hawk owls: 鷹鴞 'hawk-owl'
- Owlets: 小鴞 'small owl'
- Long-eared / Short-eared Owl: 長耳鴞 'long-eared owl' / 短耳鴞 'short-eared owl'
Owlets in the genus Glaucidium are known by another ancient name, 鵂鶹 .
Chinese terms for owls have interesting backgrounds in ancient texts:
鴞 referred to the owls.
梟 also referred to owls, with an associated legend that they were evil birds that ate their own mothers. The character 梟 is used in number of expressions related to ferocity and bravery.
鴟鴞 , the name now used for the Strigidae, also referred to evil birds believed to correspond to members of the owl family. It may also be written 鴟梟 .
Incidentally, the 鴟 in 鴟鴞 (or 鴟梟 ) referred to the sparrow hawks, not to the owls.