Short-eared owl

   ›      ›   Short-eared owl - Asio flammeus

The short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) belongs to the family of owls and owlets, the Strigidae.

The short-eared owl species is distributed in Indian subcontinent, Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, South America and southeast Asia. These owl species have small tufts of feathers resembling mammalian ears. These owls are polytypic species.
Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Short-eared Owl Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Appearance, physical description and identification

The short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) is a medium-sized owl, measuring 35 to 40 cm in length and weighing 200 to 400 grams.

The plumage of the upperparts of the short-eared owl is mottled buff and brown. The wings and tail have black bars. The throat, breast and belly are pale buff with brown vertical streaking.

The head of the short-eared owl is large and round and the facial disc has white border. The eyes have black background. The ear-tuft are small and are usually visible only when the bird is alarmed or defensive.

The bill is strong and hooked. The irises are bright yellow. The legs and feet are covered with pale buff or cream colored feathers. The call of these owl species is a loud, repeated "hoo..hoo..hoo" or "chrrrep..chrrrep" sound.
Indian birds - Photo of Short-eared owl - Asio flammeus
1.Birds of India - Photo of Short-eared owl - Asio flammeus by Sumeet Moghe

Birds of India - Photo of Short-eared owl - Asio flammeus
2.Indian birds - Photo of Short-eared owl - Asio flammeus by USFWS Mountain-Prairie

Indian birds - Photo of Short-eared owl - Asio flammeus
3.Birds of India - Photo of Short-eared owl - Asio flammeus by Johnsonwang6688

Origin, geographical range and distribution

These short-eared owl species are distributed in Asia, Europe and North America, South America, some regions of Africa, Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia. They do not occur in Australia and Antarctica.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of these short-eared owl species in Netherlands are, Lauwersmeer, Duinen Terschelling, Duinen Ameland, Duinen en Lage Land Texel and Duinen Schiermonnikoog.

Some of the IBA of these short-eared owls in United Kingdom are, Skokholm and Skomer, Ornkey Mainland Moors, Humber Estuary, Grampian Mountains, Galloway Forest Park, Forest of Clunie, Bowland Fells and Airds Moss and Muirkirk Uplands.

The IBA of these short-eared owl species in Finland are, Saariselkä and Koilliskaira, Pomokaira-Koitelaiskaira, Oulu region wetlands, Litokaira, Lemmenjoki-Hammastunturi-Pulju, Käsivarsi fjelds and Olvassuo-Oravisuo-Näätäsuo-Sammakkosuo.

Ecosystem and habitat

These short-eared owl species do not normally occur in forests. They normally occur in altitudes from 0 to 4300 meters. The artificial ecosystems and habitats of these species include cultivated lands and pasturelands.

The natural ecosystems and habitats of these short-eared owl species include tropical and subtropical flooded grasslands, temperate grasslands, savanna, moorlands, high altitude grasslands, montane forests, marshes and swamps.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these short-eared owl species consists mainly of vertebrates. Small mammals like voles, shrews, mice, ground squirrels, rats, bats and moles are their primary food.

Occasionally these owls predate on smaller birds, reptiles and insects. They are both diurnal and crepuscular hunters. The indigestible parts of the prey like bones, claws and fur are regurgitated as pellets.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these short-eared owl species is from March to June in the northern hemisphere. The laying season is during September and October in the southern hemisphere. These species are mostly monogamous.

The male short-eared owls make aerial courtship display by flapping the wings and swooping down over the nest. The nesting sites are located in prairie, tundra or savanna. They nest on the ground, concealed by vegetation.

The short-eared owl nest may be lined with grass, moss and feathers. The clutch contains 4-8 white eggs. The eggs are incubated mostly by the female. The chicks hatch out after 20-30 days of incubation and fledge after four weeks.

Migration and movement patterns

These short-eared owl species are partially migratory birds. The populations in the arctic and subarctic regions of Asia, Europe and North America are migratory. They move southwards for wintering.

The short-eared owl species populations in South America, part of central North America, part of central Europe are resident. Nomadic movements of these species in search of prey is also reported.

Post breeding, the resident juveniles may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. Within their range they may make local movements for feeding and breeding.

Short-eared owl - Quick Facts

  • Scientific name: Asio flammeus
  • Species author: (Pontoppidan, 1763)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Strix Flammea Pontoppidan, 1763
  • Family: Strigidae › Strigiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Short-eared owl, Chinese: 短耳鸮, French: Hibou des marais, German: Sumpfohreule, Spanish: Búho campestre, Russian: Болотная сова, Japanese: コミミズク, Tamil: Kuttai Kaadhu Aandhai
  • Other names: Common Marsh Owl, Marsh owl, Short-eared Owl
  • Distribution: Indian subcontinent, Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, South America, southeast Asia
  • Diet and feeding habits: small mammals, birds, reptiles
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) is estimated to number about 391,000 to 1,330,000 mature individual birds. The overall population trend of the species is considered to be decreasing.

In most of its range, this owl species is reported to be rare to common. The generation length is 7.2 years. Its distribution size is about 268,000,000

Habitat alteration and destruction, human intrusions and disturbance, predation at the nesting sites and capture for pet-trade are the main threats that are endangering the survival of these owl species.

IUCN and CITES status

The short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable, either under the range size criterion, or under the population trend criterion or under the population size criterion.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the species and has listed it as of "Least Concern".

The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for the short-eared owl (Asio flammeus).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Asio flammeus
Species:A. flammeus
Binomial name:Asio flammeus
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
The short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) is closely related to the long-eared owl (Asio otus) and marsh owl (Asio capensis).

The eleven recognized subspecies of the short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) are: A. f. flammeus, A. f. galapagoensis, A. f. ponapensis, A. f. sanfordi, A. f. sandwichensis, A. f. suinda, A. f. cubensis, A. f. bogotensis, A. f. domingensis, A. f. pallidicaudus and A. f. portoricensis.
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1.Photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: Sumeet Moghe | License: CC BY-SA 4.0 as on 5/3/18
2.Photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: USFWS Mountain-Prairie | License: CC BY 2.0 as on 5/3/18
3.Photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: Johnsonwang6688 | License: CC BY-SA 4.0 as on 5/3/18
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