Northern Harriers hunt in the same habitats with a similar flight style, but they have smaller heads, longer tails, and more pointed wings. Harriers show a bold white rump patch that Short-eared Owls lack. Long-eared Owls are darker, with prominent ear tufts and barring on the belly, but are very similar in flight. Barn Owls are much less likely to be seen during the day. They are paler overall, with a white, heart-shaped face and brown eyes.
The pueo of Hawaii is a distinct subspecies of the Short-eared Owl that is native to the islands but similar in appearance to the North American subspecies. A buffier, less streaky form is native to the Caribbean and is a rare visitor to Florida.
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.