Short-eared Owl

The Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) is a medium-sized owl. It has brown feathers covering its body and dark lines on its chest, belly and back. Females have darker colored plumage than males. This color pattern is to blend in to its surroundings. When camouflaging itself does not work, it fakes death in order to avoid being eaten.

The Short-Eared owl is found in Iceland, the Galapagos Islands, North and South America and is the only owl native to the archipelago of Hawaii. It is often found in open grasslands, prairies, estuaries, agricultural fields, marshes, and the tundra of the alpine and Arctic. This owl is a migratory bird, moving through high mountainous areas.

This owl hunts at night and dusk and dawn. Its primary source of prey is small mammals, including voles, mice, shrews, moles, rabbits and muskrats. When hunting along coastal areas, this owl hunts shorebirds and seabirds. Sometimes they feed on insects like grasshoppers and caterpillars. It carries its prey back to the nest in its talons, whereas the majority of other owls either eats the food on the spot, or carries their prey back to the nest in their mouths.

Females often lay between 4-14 eggs, depending on their geographic location (northern locations lay higher numbers of eggs, and southern locations lay fewer eggs). Threats to this owl include predation by Bald Eagles, Red-Tailed Hawks and the Snowy Owl. Skunks, dogs, foxes, coyotes, crows and ravens often invade ground-laying nests and eat the eggs. This high predation rate leads to decreases in population size. Human-induced pressures include collisions with planes on the landing strip of the airport, and vehicles on the road.