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The Ivory Bill·Birds·Hawks & Owls

Short-eared Owl, Asio flammeus

Short-eared Owl with its rodent prey

Short-eared Owls inhabit grasslands, marshes, tundra, heaths, moorlands, and other open areas on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. They are primarily crepuscular hunters, active at dusk and dawn and often during daylight hours. They primarily feed on small mammals such as mice, voles, shrews, and rats. Additionally, they consume birds, insects, amphibians, and occasionally fish.

They typically hunt by flying low over open habitats such as grasslands, marshes, and agricultural fields. They fly with a buoyant and undulating flight pattern, often gliding and hovering as they search for prey. Short-eared Owls possess excellent hearing and vision, allowing them to locate prey with precision. Their facial discs aid in capturing and directing sound waves towards their ears.

Short-eared Owls nest in simple scrapes on the ground or use existing depressions concealed under vegetation, sheltered under grassy tufts and mounds or under ridges, while others use abandoned burrows, marsh vegetation, or low shrubs.

Female Short-eared Owls lay a clutch of eggs, usually ranging from 4 to 7 eggs. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs, which hatch after about 3 to 4 weeks. The chicks are precocial and are covered in white down. They leave the nest within a few weeks after hatching and start walking and climbing nearby vegetation.

Short-eared Owls are partially migratory birds. In their breeding range, they may move to more southern areas during the winter months. Some populations are entirely migratory, while others may be resident year-round. During winter, they can be found in a variety of habitats, including coastal areas, grasslands, and agricultural fields. They often gather in groups called roosts, especially during the cold winter season.