Short Eared Owl (Asio Flammeus)

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Local names for the Short-eared Owl include the Evening Owl, Marsh Owl Bog or Swamp Owl, Grass Owl, Meadow Owl, Mouse-hawk, and Flat-faced Owl.


Lengths 33-43cm (13-17") Wingspan female 107cm (42"), male 105cm (41") (averages)
Weight 206-475g (7-17oz) Females are slightly larger than Males


Short-eared Owls is a medium-sized Owl. The plumage is buffy brown with dark streaks on the chest, belly, and back. Males birds seem to be lighter in colour than females. Colouring provides good camouflage, but if this fails, a Short-eared Owl will feign death to avoid detection. The wings and tail are strongly barred. Eyes are Yellow circled with black and set in whitish or buffy-white facial disks, which are suffused with a ring of brown. The bill is black. The head appears round without ear tufts, but at very close range small ear tufts are visible. In flight, the dark "wrist" on the underwing is the key field mark. Long-winged owl of open country that hunts during the day. Dark wing markings separate from Barn Owl.






Short-eared Owls inhabit wide open spaces such as grassland, agricultural fields, salt marshes, estuaries, mountain meadows, and alpine and Arctic tundra. Breeding habitat must have sufficient ground cover to conceal nests and nearby sources of small mammals for food. Communal roosts occur in oldgrowth fields, along thick hedgerows, in overgrown rubble in abandoned fields, or in clumps of dense conifers. These Owls tend to roost in trees only when snow covers the ground. During migration, Short-eared Owls will move through high mountain passes, flying at great heights.


Generally diurnal, but most active at dusk and also at night. When perched it leans forward, more hawklike than other Owls, and appears bulky rather than sleek. Flies with deep, slow, rowing wingbeats, and glides on stretched wings over open landscapes. Outside breeding season, they may gather in flocks.

Voice: Short-eared Owls are generally quiet, owing to their diurnal nature and the wide open habitats where visual displays would are more effective than in forests. The male's territorial song is a pulsing "voo-hoo-hoo", resembling an old steam engine. This song is given mainly during flight displays and the female responds with a barking "kee-ow". Both sexes give hoarse cheeaw calls when disturbed in their nesting territory. When excited near the nest, both sexes squawk, bark, hiss and squeal.

Diet & Hunting

Short-eared Owls hunt mainly at night and during the morning and late afternoon. They fly over open areas, a few feet above ground, and pounce when prey is located. In dense vegetation they will hover over prey, often for extended periods when facing into the wind, before pouncing. They occasionally hunt from a perch or while standing on the ground. Short-eared Owls eat mainly small mammals, and sometimes small birds. Meadow voles (Microtus species) are the primary prey. shrews,, rats, bats, rabbits, and are taken. Birds probably are more important when Short-eared Owls hunt in marshes and along coastal areas, where they can target shorebirds, terns, and small gulls and seabirds. In inland habitats they take mainly Horned Larks, meadowlarks, blackbirds, and pipits. A few insects such as roaches, grasshoppers, beetles, katydids, and caterpillars are also taken. Unlike most Owls, prey is normally carried in its talons.Short-eared Owls and Northern Harriers can compete with each other when hunting the same field, and harriers often steal food from the Owl.

When does it Breed ?

April to July , 4 - 8 eggs, The Short-eared Owl routinely lays replacement clutches, because of high predation rates. Incubation 24 - 28 days , leave nest at 12 - 17 days , young fledge from 24 days . Nests on the ground in low vegetation.unlike most other Owls. Breeding behaviouir and courship indicative of territorial behaviour is marked in this Owl.I n winter, there is an influx to the UK of continental birds (from Scandinavia, Russia, Iceland) to N, En, and parts of Central Sn England,

Nests are likely located in a grass mound shelter, under a grass tuft, or among herbaceous ground cover. are The loosely constructed Nests are made by the female, who scrapes a spot on the ground the scrape is lined with with herb stalks grass stems, , and feathers from her breast

Males perform aerial displays by rising quickly with rhythmic and exaggerated wing beats, hovering, gliding down, and rising again, often 200 to 400 meters (650 to 1,300 feet) above ground. Wing claps, in bursts of 2 to 6 per second, are often made during this flight and some singing occurs. The flight can be ended with a spectacular descent where the male hold his wings aloft and shimmies rapidly to the ground. Two birds may engage in flight, locking talons, and fighting briefly. Often, a display where one bird flashes its light underwing towards another is used during territorial and courtship flights.


Wild Short-eared Owls can live up to 13 years of age.