For the eyes: Place the malt balls cut side up on the work surface. Attach a white sprinkle to each ball using a skewer dipped in the buttercream to adhere. Add a mini chocolate chip as a pupil to each white sprinkle using more buttercream. Set aside.
For the ears: Unwrap the caramels and press with fingers to flatten. Warm the candies in the microwave for 5 to 10 seconds if they are too hard to flatten at room temperature. Cut each caramel into 2 little triangles with scissors. Coat each triangle with frosting on one side and cover with chocolate sprinkles. Set aside.
For the beaks: Place the small yellow gumdrops on the work surface standing upright. Snip each gumdrop with scissors straight down three-quarters of the way through the candy to make the open mouth. Snip to narrow the overall size and shape into a tapered beak.
To assemble: Frost each cupcake with about 2 tablespoons buttercream. Place the chocolate sprinkles in a small bowl. Invert each cupcake into the sprinkles and press gently to adhere. Attach the eyes and beak by applying small dollops of additional frosting and pressing gently. Push the ears into the edges of the cupcake. Repeat steps for all cupcakes.
For snowy owls, use vanilla frosting in place of the chocolate.