Short-Eared Owl

Scientific name: Asio flammeus

Did you know: Short-Eared Owls are known for their exceptional hearing, allowing them to locate and capture prey even under thick vegetation or snow!

What Do Short-Eared Owls Look Like? (How to Identify Them)

Short-Eared Owls, medium-sized with a wingspan of 90-105cm, are distinguishable by their mottled brown bodies and contrasting pale under-wings

Their striking yellow eyes, set against a pale facial disk, add to their distinctive appearance. While they are known for their “ear” tufts, these are often inconspicuous, only becoming visible when the owl feels threatened or is in a defensive posture.

Differences Between Male And Female Short-Eared Owls

Male and female Short-Eared Owls are similar in appearance, but subtle differences exist. Typically, females are slightly larger than males. 

Moreover, the females’ plumage tends to be more heavily streaked, especially on the upper breast, providing them with better camouflage while nesting on the ground.

What Do Short-Eared Owls Eat?

Short-Eared Owls primarily feed on small mammals, with voles being their preferred choice. They are opportunistic hunters and may also consume other small animals like rabbits, mice, and occasionally, smaller birds. 

Their hunting strategy involves flying low over open fields, using their acute hearing to detect prey before swooping down feet-first for the catch.

Where Do Short-Eared Owls Live? (Including Migration Info)

Short-Eared Owls inhabit a range of environments including uplands, grasslands, wetlands, and coastal areas. They have a broad distribution, found across Europe, Asia, and North America. 

Notably, during winter, the UK sees an influx of these owls from Scandinavia, Russia, and Iceland, particularly in northern and eastern regions and parts of central southern England. 

Their migration patterns are closely tied to the availability of prey, leading them to relocate to areas with higher rodent populations.

Bird Calls & Songs (The Unique Voices of Short-Eared Owls)

The Short-Eared Owl’s call is a distinctive scratchy bark-like sound, often described as a raspy “waowk” or a series of “toot” sounds. During the breeding season, they also emit a loud “eeee-yerp” on breeding grounds. Interestingly, they tend to be silent on their wintering grounds.

Fun Short-Eared Owl Facts (Kid Friendly)

  • Short-Eared Owls can fly long distances over vast expanses of ocean.
  • They are one of the few owl species active during daylight, especially at dawn and dusk.
  • These owls can nest on reclaimed and replanted mines.
  • They are known for their impressive courtship displays, including aerial acrobatics and wing-clapping.
  • The Short-Eared Owl’s “ear” tufts are not always visible.
  • Females sometimes protect their nests by pretending to have a crippled wing.
  • This owl species is capable of catching prey even in complete darkness, thanks to its exceptional hearing.
  • They eject pellets containing indigestible parts of their prey, like bones.

Short-Eared Owl Images

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Facts About The Short-Eared Owl

Diet: Small mammals, especially voles.
Bird Family: Owls
Length: 34-42cm
Wingspan: 90-105cm
Weight: 260-350g
Scientific Name: Asio flammeus

The Short-Eared Owl Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December