© KURT LINDSAY
SHORT-EARED OWL FACTS:
A medium-sized owl with a large round head, very small ear tufts, yellow eyes, black beak, and long, broad wings with black patches on “wrists”
Males: buff colored chest with brown streaking; belly whitish with less streaking
Females: same as males, perhaps darker; colors resemble dried grasses and aid camouflage
Young: crown and rump are dark brown; face is darker, body less streaked
OTHER NAMES: Grass Owl
CLOSEST RELATIVE: Long-eared Owl
SHORT-EARED OWL SIZE:
Female slighter larger and heavier than male
Height: Males 37cm (14.6 in), Females 38cm (15.0 in)
Weight: Males 200-450g (7.1-15.9 oz), Females 280-500g (9.9-17.6 oz)
Wingspan Both: 106cm (41.7 in)
SHORT-EARED OWL RANGE:
Range: one of the most widespread owls in the world; can be found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica; breeding range in North America extends from Northern Alaska to Newfoundland and south to Southern California and Virginia
SHORT-EARED OWL HABITAT:
Open country: tundra, marshes, grasslands, savannas, moorlands
SHORT-EARED OWL DIET:
Mostly small mammals like voles, moles, mice and rabbits; sometimes bats, weasels, shrews, or birds
SHORT-EARED OWL VOICE:
Usually silent, except during winter, breeding season, or when warning intruders
Males: usually a raspy bark; sometimes a “keee-ow” to warn intruders; also a 13-16 note series of repeated “hoo”s given in flight during courtship
Females: give ‘keeow-ow” bark like male
SHORT-EARED OWL NESTING:
Nest Site: nests on the ground, often atop a mound or high area; scratches out a bowl-shaped nest, fills it with grass and feathers
Eggs: 5-6 eggs on average; sometimes up to 10
Incubation: 26-29 days
SHORT-EARED OWL HUNTING HABITS:
Usually nocturnal, sometimes crepuscular; flies low over the ground in search of prey; very agile, unusual flight
SHORT-EARED OWL CONSERVATION STATUS:
Not globally threatened; but threatened or endangered in 7 northeastern U.S. states; significant declines noted in most western states.
SHORT-EARED OWL RESEARCH:
See RESEARCH for The Owl Research Institute's study on Short-eared Owls.
© Deborah Hanson
© Kurt Lindsay photos
SHORT-EARED OWL DISTRIBUTION IN NORTH AMERCAN
Maps provided by The Birds of North America Online and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
If we have a Long-eared Owl, of course we must have a Short-eared Owl too. Though these two “tufted” owls have similar names, they are actually quite different.
In fact, the Short-eared Owl is quite different than all other owl species. First, Short-eared Owls have a flight style like no other. It’s erratic, to say the least. Often described as “moth-like”, it flaps its wings high in a slow, floppy fashion.
Secondly, they favor a different type of habitat than most other owls. While many owls seek deep, dense forests, Short-eared Owls prefer to be out in the open. They make their homes in mostly flat, treeless terrain like marshes, tundra, swamps, grasslands, or fields.
So where do they nest without trees? Short-eared Owls don’t need trees; they nests right on the ground! While most owl species are content to plop right down into an abandoned nest of a Magpie or Crow, or cozy up into an old woodpecker hole, female Short-eared Owls choose a high place or a mound and scratch out a bowl-shaped depression, filling it with grass and soft, downy feathers. Birds that nest on the ground are at high risk from predators like foxes, cats, dogs, and other wild and domestic animals.
So, save a bird! The next time you take your dog for a walk through the meadow, keep him on a leash!