Long-eared Owl

Asio otus

35-37cm

Appearance

Can appear quite slender and has tufts which look like ears, though they're not. The face changes shape, thickening and thinning. Adults and juveniles are similar, with dark buffish-brown plumage, paler underparts, and vivid streaking all over. The feathers sit in a flat circular manner around the face and the eyes are bright orange. When in the air, the wings have a more consistent pattern than the Short-eared Owl, the flight feathers are brownish orange at the base, and the ear tufts are flattened.

Habitat

Prefers to live in woods and forests, and breeding takes place on the edge of woodlands, in copses and thickets near countryside. More likely to be nearer to the coast in winter.

Character

A nocturnal bird that spends its days roosting in foliage. Groups can form for migration, though breeding takes place only in pairs. If disturbed, the ear tufts may be cocked.

Food

Diet includes small mammals, particularly voles and mice, and also some other bird species.

Breeding

Nesting starts towards the end of March or in April, and nests are most likely in a tree. Female lays 3 or 4 eggs which she incubates for 25-30 days. Male hunts on behalf of the female and feeds the young too. Hatchlings depart nest for nearby branches at approximately 21 day old, learn to fly after about 30 days, and remain dependent for 60 days. May be two broods in times of food abundance.

Population

Some populations are migratory while others travel only short distances for food. Incoming numbers to Britain depend on the availability of food. This makes head counts difficult, but an estimated 1800-6000 pairs are in the UK and 1000-2500 in Ireland.

Observation Tips

Majority of viewing occurs in the winter, but it is a timid and highly camouflaged bird. Because of this, sightings of these birds are quite a treat.

Voice

Has a low-pitched, soft 'hoo-hoo', usually heard in spring.
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