Long-eared Owl - Asio otus
Calls - Asio otus
The Long-eared Owl was first described in 1758 by Carolus Linnaeus
(1707-1778). Other Names for Long-eared Owls are American Long-eared Owl,
Brush Owl, Cat Owl, Pussy Owl, Lesser Horned Owl, Ceder Owl and Coulee Owl.
[For help with terms used in the description, see parts of an owl. For general characteristics common to most owl species, see owl physiology.]
Description: The Long-eared Owl is a medium-sized
woodland Owl. They have prominent ear tufts
that appear to sit in the middle of the head and are usually held erect. Plumage is brown
and buff, with heavy mottling and barring over most of the body. Male plumage tends to be
lighter than females. The eyes are golden yellow, facial disk pale ochraceous-tawny (Eurasia, Africa) to rufous (North America). The bill is black. The forehead and lores are mottled grey
and white and there is a white chin patch. The legs and feet are heavily feathered.
Juveniles are similar to adults but less heavily marked. The head tufts are shorter and
less defined and facial disk darker. Body feathers are tipped with greyish white.
Size: Length females 37cm (14.6"), males 34cm
Wingspan females 100cm
(39"), males 96cm (38") average.
Weight females 282g (10oz), males 259g (9oz) average.
Habits: Nocturnal, with activity normally begining at dusk. They appear slim and slouch forward when perched. Long-eared Owls are buoyant fliers, appearing to glide noiselessly even
when their wings are flapping. They are very manoeuvrable and can fly through fairly dense
brush. They fly moth-like, often hovering and fluttering while looking for prey. When
roosting, a Long-eared Owl will stretch its body to make itself appear like a tree branch.
Voice: The main advertisement call of the male is a low "hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, .....", repeated 10 to 200 times, with
one note every 2 to 3 seconds. The female responds with a
raspy buzz call, and often duets with the male. Calling occurs almost always during
nocturnal hours. When alarmed, Long-eared Owls bark "whek-WHEK-whek" or shriek
like a cat. Both males and females hiss during exchange of prey or when alarmed. During courtship, the male flies around and flaps its wings below its body, producing a clapping sound. Fledged young call with high-pitched, drawn-out feeh notes.
Hunting & Food: Long-eared Owls hunt mainly by ranging over
open rangeland, clearings, and fallow fields. They rarely hunt in woodlands where they
roost and nest. They hunt mainly from late dusk to just before dawn, flying low to the
ground, (1 to 2 meters (3 to 7 feet)), with the head canted to one side listening for
prey. When prey is spotted, the Owl pounces immediately, pinning the prey to the ground
with its powerful talons. Smaller prey is usually swallowed immediately, or carried away
in the bill. Larger prey is carried in the talons.
Long-eared Owls feed primarily on mammals. In most areas voles are the most common prey,
but deer mice are the most important prey in other areas. In southwestern deserts, pocket
mice and kangaroo rats are primary foods. Other mammal prey includes squirrels, bats,
chipmunks, gophers, shrews, moles, and cottontail rabbits. Birds are also taken,
occasionally on the wing. Most bird prey are smaller species that occur on or near the
ground. Bird prey includes meadowlarks, blackbirds, juncos, Horned Larks, doves,
bluebirds, and thrashers. Larger birds such as grouse and screech-Owls are occasionally
taken. Long-eared Owls sometimes eat insects, frogs, and snakes.
Pellets are fairly large, about 5.1 centimetres (2 inches) long and 1.9
inches) thick. Pellets are oval or cylindrical, greyish, and compact with many bones,
skulls, and teeth. They are regurgitated 3 to 4 hours after eating.
Breeding: Males occupy nesting territories first and may begin
their territorial calling in winter. Nesting occurs mainly from mid March through May in
North America. During courtship, males perform display flights around nests. Display
flights involve erratic gliding and flapping through the trees with occasional single wing
claps. Females respond by giving their nest call. The female selects a nest by hopping
around it, while the male displays above. She then performs display flights as well, and
flies repeatedly to the nest. Leading up to mating, the male approaches the female after
calling and performing display flights, then waves his wings as he sidles up to her.
Mutual preening and courtship feeding also occur. After pairing, adults roost close
together, but the female tends to roost on the nest after it has been selected.
Long-eared Owls nest almost exclusively in old stick nests of crows, magpies, ravens,
hawks, or herons. They nest rarely in rock crevices, tree cavities, or on open ground.
are almost always located in wooded sites, often screened by shrubbery, vines, or branches
and are commonly 5 to 10 meters (16 to 33 feet) above ground.
Long-eared Owls have an impressive nest defence display - the female spreads her wings out
widely facing the intruder, flares her flight feathers, and lowers her head. This display
makes her appear 2 to 3 times as large as she really is. They also perform a distraction
display near nests, where the Owl pretends to capture prey, or feign injury, and flop away
from the nest on the ground making various noises. They will occasionally attack
viciously, aiming the talons at the face and throat of the intruder.
Old nests are lined with bark strips, feathers, leaves, and moss before eggs are laid.
Clutch sizes range from 3 to 8 eggs, with an average of 4 to 5 eggs. Clutch sizes tend to
increase from south to north and from east to west. Eggs are laid irregularly every 1 to 5
days and incubation begins with the first egg laid, so that a clutch of 6 eggs may hatch
over a period of 10 to 12 days. The female performs the incubation which lasts 25 to 30
days. Nestlings begin to walk out of the nest onto nearby branches at about 3 weeks, but
are not capable of flight until about 5 weeks. Young become independent from parents at
about 2 months. Nesting success is strongly linked to food availability and predation.
Long-eared Owls are usually single-brooded, however double-brooding has been
observed. If a clutch of eggs is lost, a replacement
clutch may be
laid about three weeks later.
Densities of breeding birds are relatively low, except when local food and nesting habitat
availability allow loosely colonial nesting.
Mortality: Captive Long-eared Owls have been known to
live for over 10 years. Many are killed by shooting and collision with vehicles. Natural
enemies of adult birds include Great Horned and Barred Owls. Raccoons are major predators
of eggs and nestlings.
Habitat: Long-eared Owls inhabit open woodlands, forest edges, riparian
strips along rivers, hedgerows, juniper thickets, woodlots, and wooded ravines and
gullies. Breeding habitat must include thickly wooded areas for nesting and roosting with
nearby open spaces for hunting. During winter, they need dense conifer groves or brushy
thickets to roost in. Roosting sites are usually in the heaviest forest cover available.
They will also roost in hedgerows, or in caves and cracks in rock canyons.
Unlike most other Owls, during winter they may roost communally (7 to 50 Owls) in dense
thickets and range over very large undefended foraging areas. Communal roost sites are
often used year after year, probably by the same birds.
Distribution: Long-eared Owls are widely distributed in North
America, Eurasia and northern Africa.
Distribution of the Long-eared Owl Asio otus
Status: Rather common and widespread in many regions.
Original Description: Linnaeus, Carolis. 1758. Systema Naturae (Syst. Nat.) ed. 10: p 92.
A. o. otus,
A. o. canariensis,
A. o. tuftsi,
A. o. wilsonianus
Campbell, Wayne. 1994. "Know Your Owls (CD-ROM)". Axia Wildlife
Collaborative. . "Wikipedia
". Wikimedia Foundation
Page compiled by Deane P. Lewis. Page last updated 2012-08-13
OwlPages.com Owl Species ID: 280.030.000