Resident Raptor - Short-eared Owl
Cascades Raptor Center does not currently have any Short-eared Owl resident birds.
Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
A tawny, mid-sized owl with a large, round head, long
and narrow wings, and a tail of medium length. The upper body is mottled
brown and buff, the underside is buff to reddish with vertical streaks.
Sexes have similar plumage, but females tend to be darker and more heavily
streaked. This owl has yellow eyes and a black bill, set in a large, whitish
facial disc of feathers that help direct sound to the ears. Small "ear"
tufts can be raised above the forehead in a defensive posture, but these are
often not seen. Females are slightly larger than males, and this species is
larger than its cousin the Long-eared Owl. The pattern of flight is
irregular, with shallow, stiff wing beats; the wings have dark carpal patches
and barred wing tips that are visible in flight.
Small, wide-set feather tufts often lead finders to think this is a "baby
great horned owl"; large, yellow eyes; streaked underparts (w/ horizontal
black barring in the juveniles changing to irregular vertical streaks in
adult plumage); very well camouflaged for its day-time roosts against the
trunks of trees; biggest of the little owls.
Size - Length: 15" ave. • Wing Span: 38" ave. • Weight: 12 oz. ave.
Status - State and federally protected.
Habitat - A variety of open area habitats will support this species.
These include marshes, grasslands, prairies, tundra, grassy coastal areas,
and agricultural lands. Open country that will support cyclic populations of
small mammals are the basic habitat requirement; mixed areas of woods and
clearings may be used at times, as trees are sometimes used for roosting in
Diet - Small mammals and insects are the main sources of food; birds
are also sometimes taken, especially in coastal areas. This species is a
diurnal and semi-nocturnal hunter, foraging during the day as well as at
dawn and dusk. The most common hunting method is to search for prey by
flying low over open ground, often hovering in the air before pouncing; they
also hunt from a perch The Short-eared Owl hunts primarily by sound, but
also by sight.
Call - This owl is usually quiet, but during the breeding season
males can be heard to give a voohoohoohoohoo call during courtship flights. Sometimes a call of
keeee..ow may be given during the wintertime; a
bark-like call is given if intruders approach a nest.
Nesting - The Short-eared owl is a ground nester. Preferred nesting
sites are mounds or ridges that give a slight elevation above surrounding
terrain to guard against flooding. Finding a place with enough vegetation to
hide a nesting female, this owl will scrape out a nest bowl in the ground
and line it with grass and downy feathers for insulation.
Most Common Problems - Collisions with vehicles and flying into
windows are frequent causes of injury for this owl, which is also vulnerable
due to its ground nesting habits. Loss of open country habitat through
development, agriculture, and grazing is a major problem.