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Short-eared Owl


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A bird of open grasslands, the Short-eared Owl is one of the most widely distributed owls in the world. It is found across North America, South America, and Eurasia, and on many oceanic islands.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
13.4–16.9 in
34–43 cm
33.5–40.6 in
85–103 cm
7.3–16.8 oz
206–475 g
Other Names
  • Hibou des Marias (French)
  • Lechuza de la penas (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Short-eared Owl may compete with the Barn Owl in some areas. Some successful nest box programs to attract Barn Owls have coincided with the decline of the Short-eared Owl in the same area.
  • 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.



Open country, including prairie, meadows, tundra, moorlands, marshes, savanna, and open woodland; in the Hawaiian Islands also around towns; nesting on the ground.



Small mammals; sometimes birds.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
1–11 eggs
Egg Description
Creamy white.
Condition at Hatching
Helpless, eyes closed, covered in down.
Nest Description

Scrape in ground lined with grasses.

Nest Placement




Hunts day and night; mainly at dawn and dusk in winter. Flies low over open ground, locating prey by ear. Kills prey with a bite to the back of the skull; often swallows prey whole.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

Short-eared Owl populations declined by 2.5 percent per year between 1966 and 2010, resulting in a cumulative decline of 67 percent, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 3 million with 14 percent spending some part of the year in the U.S., 11 percent in Canada, and 3 percent wintering in Mexico. The 2014 State of the Birds Report listed them as a Common Bird in Steep Decline, and they rate a 12 out of 20 on the Partners in Flight Continental Concern Score. These owls are listed as of special concern, threatened, or endangered in some states. They are more common in the northern portion of their breeding range, but populations fluctuate greatly along with prey population cycles.


Range Map Help

Short-eared Owl Range Map
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