It’s that time of year: Long-eared Owl survey season!
Last week the ORI crew conducted the first Long-eared Owl survey of the season. The area they surveyed is somewhat near where the Long-eared Owl Explore.org cam is placed, but is not visible on the cam.
Thought they only found one owl, they were able to capture it. They noticed the owl was already banded, so they made note of the band number to look up in the records once they were back in the office. This individual is a male. Visually, a male Long-eared Owl will be overall a lighter brown/tan color, while females tend to be darker brown overall.
When they looked up the band number, they discovered it was one of “our” birds, banded by ORI on December 27, 2019, in a gully close to where he was recaptured last week. When he was first caught he was aged as a Hatch Year, which means that he had hatched in 2019. Which makes him now what biologists call a Third Year bird- he’s in his third year of life. It’s always great to reencounter birds that we’ve banded in the past.
Long-eared Owls live across North America, and are found year-round in Montana. (See the Long-eared Owl North American range map for more details). They are also found across Eurasia. They prefer to hang out in areas where there is dense vegetation and shrubs next to open grasslands or shrublands, so they have good nesting and roosting places next to more open hunting grounds. Long-eared Owls hunt at night and use their suburb hearing to locate and catch small mammals. In the winter, Long-eared Owls will form communal roosts of anywhere from 2 to 20 birds, though up to 100 have been reported!
ORI has been studying Long-eared Owls for 35 years, and over that time we’ve banded over 2,000 Long-eared Owls. Of those, we have re-encountered about 25% of the birds we’ve banded. The owls in our study areas tend to return to the same wintering grounds but may not roost in the same places. Only continued surveys will tell us where these owls will set up their communal roosts for the winter.
Check out our Long-eared Owl live cam on Explore.org to get a glimpse of what Long-eared Owl roosting habitat looks like. And, just maybe, you might catch a glimpse of a roosting owl!