Long-eared Owls are brownish-gray, medium-sized owls with long ear-tufts, hence the name. They have distinctive rufous-orange facial disks. They are mostly gray above, with dark and russet patches at each wrist, conspicuous in flight. Below, wings are mostly buff, and the patches at the wrists are dark. Long-eared owls are barred and streaked with dark brown and rufous on their breasts and bellies. In flight they can be hard to tell from the closely related Short-eared owls, except by behavior and habitat.
Long-eared Owls are not as vocal as most other owls and are rarely heard outside of the breeding season. They hunt mostly at night, although they are sometimes active before dusk, especially when they are feeding young. They are chase-predators and hunt by flying fly back and forth low over the ground. When they locate prey by sound or sight, they swoop down and seize it with their talons. Males perform a zigzag aerial courtship display with intermittent wing-claps. Outside the breeding season, large roosts often form, and courtship typically begins at these roosts.
Long-eared Owls breed in dense coniferous or broadleaved woodlands with adjacent open areas where they hunt. They are often found in wooded areas along streams and in planted windbreaks. During the winter, they roost in dense vegetation. East of the Cascades this is often in conifers, willows, Russian olives, or junipers, and west of the Cascades in conifers, willows, or ash trees
Asio otus is a widespread breeder across much of Europe, which accounts for less
than half of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is large
(>380,000 pairs), and was stable between 1970-1990. Although there were declines
in a few countries during 1990-2000, most populations-including key ones in Russia
and Romania-were stable, and the species remained stable overall.
The conservation status of Long-eared Owls is not well known. Populations appear stable in most of North America, although they have declined in some areas due to habitat loss. In many areas, they may benefit from human-created forest fragmentation, which creates open areas for hunting adjacent to wooded areas for nesting. Protection of wooded river corridors and other isolated tree groves, especially in arid areas, is important for their local survival.
Long-eared Owls eat a variety of small mammals, especially mice and voles. They sometimes also take small birds and reptiles.
This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 10,000,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 120,000 individuals (Rich et al. 2003). Global population trends have not been quantified; there is evidence of population fluctuations, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]
Monogamous pairs often form at winter roosts. Long-eared Owls usually nest in abandoned stick nests, often the nests of magpies, crows, ravens, or hawks. On occasion they nest in cavities or brushy tangles. They do not add nesting material. Females lay 2’10 eggs, usually 5-6, and incubate them 26-28 days. During incubation, the male brings food to the female on the nest. After the young hatch, the male alone brings food to the young and to the brooding mother. When brooding ends, the female begins to hunt and to help feed the young. Young owlets venture out of the nest onto nearby branches at about three weeks, and begin taking short flights at about five weeks. The female generally abandons the young about 6 ½ to 8 weeks after they hatch, but the male continues to feed them until they are 10-11 weeks old.
Resident and migratory; migration poorly understood. Nomadic in response to fluctuating prey numbers in N Europe: over winters N to C Finland during years with abundant prey, otherwise migratory in most of Fenno-Scandia and across northernmost parts of Asian range; birds breeding in Europe may winter as far S as Egypt, but largely sedentary in S Europe; Azores and Canary Is populations non-migratory. Accidental Iceland, Spitsbergen, Bear I, Iraq, Kuwait; in China, breeds in N, winters in S; Asian breeders winter as far S as N India and Indochina. Spring and autumn movements in appropriate directions in USA suggest regular migration (1 ringed in Montana recovered in Guanajuato, Mexico, having traveled 3200 km); presumably regular migrant in N Canada; commonly winters in breeding range throughout USA and extreme S Canada; accidental Alaska, Bermuda and Cuba.
- spanwidth min.: 90 cm
- spanwidth max.: 100 cm
- size min.: 34 cm
- size max.: 38 cm
- incubation min.: 25 days
- incubation max.: 30 days
- fledging min.: 21 days
- fledging max.: 24 days
- broods 1
- eggs min.: 2
- eggs max.: 5
- Conservation Status
- Asio otus wilsonianus
- sc and se Canada to sc and e USA
- Asio otus tuftsi
- w Canada to n Mexico
- Asio otus canariensis
- Canary Is.
- Asio otus otus
- Europe, Asia and n Africa
- Asio otus
- NA, MA, EU widespread