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Long-eared Owl, Asio otus

Long-eared owl perched on a dead tree branch in a forest background

Long-eared Owls have a widespread distribution across North America, Europe, Asia, and parts of northern Africa. They can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, marshes, meadows, and open grasslands. They often select areas with dense vegetation for roosting and nesting.

They possess long ear tufts that are not actual ears but rather display feathers that can be raised or lowered, depending on their mood or level of alertness. Long-eared Owls have yellow eyes, a facial disc, and plumage with streaks and bars, providing excellent camouflage. They are known for their ability to blend in with their surroundings and remain motionless for extended periods.

Long-eared Owls are typically secretive and elusive, making them challenging to observe in the wild. They are primarily nocturnal hunters. They feed on small mammals such as mice, voles, shrews, and rats. They have excellent hearing and rely heavily on sound to locate prey. Long-eared Owls use their sharp talons and beak to capture and kill their prey, often swooping down silently from perches or flying low over the ground to surprise their targets.

Long-eared Owls don’t make their own nests. Typically, they use abandoned nests built by crows, hawks, or squirrels. They may also utilize dense foliage in trees or shrubs for a well-hidden roosting spot. They prefer to nest in secluded locations with dense cover, providing protection for their eggs and young.

Females lay 4 to 7 eggs at intervals of a couple of days. The female incubates the eggs while the male provides food for both the female and the growing embryos. Incubation lasts around 25 to 30 days. After hatching, both parents participate in raising and feeding the young. The chicks are initially covered in white down feathers and grow rapidly under the care of their parents.

Long-eared Owl chicks fledge, or leave the nest, at around 4 to 5 weeks of age. They are able to climb nearby branches and explore their surroundings but are not fully capable of sustained flight. During this period, the parents continue to provide food and guidance. The young owls gradually develop their flight skills and gain independence over the following weeks. They disperse to find their own territories once they reach maturity.

Long-eared Owls are generally non-migratory birds, although some individuals may undertake short-distance migrations in response to food availability or weather conditions. They tend to remain in their breeding or wintering territories year-round. During the winter, they often gather in communal roosts, where multiple individuals may share the same roosting site for warmth and protection.