Living Bird Magazine
Short-eared OwlAsio flammeus
- ORDER: Strigiformes
- FAMILY: Strigidae
This open-country hunter is one of the world's most widely distributed owls, and among the most frequently seen in daylight. Don't look too eagerly for the ear tufts, which are so short they're often invisible. More conspicuous features are its black-rimmed yellow eyes staring out from a pale facial disk. These birds course silently over grasslands on broad, rounded wings, especially at dawn and dusk. They use acute hearing to hunt small mammals and birds.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Unless you live in the northern U.S. or Canada, you'll want to look for Short-eared Owls during winter. Look for open fields, grasslands, or airports and visit near dawn or dusk for your best chance of finding them. They may be sitting directly on the ground or flying low and erratically as they hunt. They often cover great distances in a crisscrossing or roughly circular route, so if one flies out of sight be patient—it may come back for a return visit.
- Búho Campestre (Spanish)
- Hibou des marais (French)
- Cool Facts
- The Short-eared Owl is one of the few species that seems to have benefited from strip-mining. It nests on reclaimed and replanted mines south of its normal breeding range.
- As suggested by their wide global distribution, Short-eared Owls can travel long distances over vast expanses of ocean. Witnesses have reported seeing these owls descending on ships hundreds of miles from land.
- Hawai'I's only native owl, the pueo (Asio flammeus sandwichensis), is a Short-eared Owl subspecies found on all the chain's major islands. Pueos may have descended from Alaska forebears, taking hold in the islands after the first arriving Polynesians brought owl food in the form of the Pacific rat.
- Normally reluctant to leave the nest, female Short-eared Owls that are forced to flush often defecate on their eggs. The resulting putrid smell may repel predators or mask the scent of the nest.
- The oldest Short-eared Owl on record was at least 4 years, 4 months old when it was shot in California in 1970, wearing a band that had been applied in British Columbia in 1966.