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The Short-eared Owl

Updated on April 14, 2012
Male Short-eared Owl.
Male Short-eared Owl.

The Short eared Owl(Asia flammeus) of the Owl Family(Strigidea).

Asio actually means eared owls, and this case the Short Eared Owl has tufts of feathers actually resembling animal(mammalian) ears. These may or may not be always visible and in fact in Short Eared Owls will only be seen when the bird is alarmed.

There are in fact 10 subspecies of this particular owl and they occur everywhere on the planet apart from Antarctica and Australia. Although not found in Antarctica they have however been in Iceland and other islands such as the Galapagos and on the Hawaiian Islands.

They are a partially migratory bird and will move south from the northern areas of their ranges in winter. They can also be nomadic when searching for a food source.

This is a medium sized bird, 13-17 ins long and 7.3-16.8 Oz's in weight.

It has as with most owls large eyes and a big head. its neck is short and it has broad wings. Its beak is also short, hooked and black in colour.The Short Eared owls plumage ranges from a mottled tawny to brown with barred tail and wings. the wingspan ranges from 33-43 ins.

Its the eyes which give it the "tag" flammeus are yellow-orange and this is exaggerated by black rings encircling each eye and actually looks as if the bird is wearing mascara. There are also large discs of whitish plumage which give the appearance of a mask being worn, which surrounds the eyes.

The Short-eared Owl is most often seen at dawn,dusk or in the late afternoon, they are DIURNAL, rather than NOCTURNAL.

They primarily eat small animals but will sometimes take small birds if rodents are in short supply, and the young will eat insects. Their favoured meal is the Meadow Vole.

Their preferred habitat is marshes, tundra and open grasslands.

They hunt by either diving down from perches or flying low over the ground and then pouncing on their prey, sometimes hovering over them before they drop.

Nests are built on the ground by the female who solely incubates the eggs. they are cup-shaped and lined with grasses and down. Its here she lays her clutch of 4-9 eggs, though up to 14 has been known. the number is dependant on the available food supply in any particular year.

Breeding starts when both sexes defend their territory and there are elaborate displays in flight which denote courtship. Exaggerated wing-beats, midair skirmishes and wing-clapping.

Widespread but on the Decline.

Despite the fact that The Short-eared Owl is so widespread worldwide their numbers are declining and it is obviously becoming a cause for concern. The drop in their numbers has risen from 3.5% per year to 11.5% per year. And it is for this reason that they are now listed as Vulnerable, on a Worldwide basis and State-Endangered in the Northeastern United States.

Reasons--- Yet again habitat loss and Pesticides which get into the prey animals they eat.


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    • clairemy profile image

      Claire 5 years ago

      JKenny, thank you very much. I didn't realise just what problems these lovely owls had until I started researching. i know there is natural extinction ,but it seems like we humans are responsible for accelarating it in some cases.

    • clairemy profile image

      Claire 5 years ago

      Aviannovice thankyou so much!!

      I agree we do need to find more natural alternatives, and organic food always tastes better, in my opinion.

    • JKenny profile image

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Great hub, Claire. I've seen short eared owls here in Britain, which was quite lucky given the fact they are quite rare over here. I loved those photographs, especially the one of the two individuals in mid flight. Voted up etc.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Awesome and vote up. Superbly done and well researched. Again: pesticides will be the death of everything, including us. Technology is good to some degree, but NEVER when the death of beautiful beings are a result. We must pay more attention to organic alternatives, as well as organic food.