13-17" (33-43 cm). Short ear tufts are close together and seldom noticeable on a relatively small head for an owl. tawny brown with light brown streaking below that goes from heavy on breast to finer on belly; darker above with white spots. Face mask and wing linings are also light; large buffy wing patches show on the underwing in flight along with a black wrist patch. Eyes yellow. Immature darker.
Similar Species- Long-eared Owl, Barred Owl, Common Barn-owl
A harsh, sneezy, barked kyow!
Breeds from northern Alaska, east to northern Labrador, and south to California, Utah, Colorado, parts of Midwest, and Virginia. Winters mostly from southern Canada, south to southern Baja California, southern Mexico, Gulf Coast, and Florida.
Eats mainly rodents (commonly voles), but will also eat small birds, insects, and other small mammals.
Nests in depression on ground. Both sexes perform distraction displays. Breeding density in different areas has been reported at 0.6-6 pairs/km2. Reported average home range size is 15-200 ha. Roosts by day on ground, on low open perch, under low shrub, or in conifer. Somewhat gregarious in winter; groups may gather where prey is abundant. May defend feeding territory in winter. Forages primarily by flying low (typically into wind), and dropping down onto prey, sometimes after hovering briefly. Will forage day or night; may favor late afternoon and early eavening. Recent study in southwestern Idaho reported 7% mortality rate in nestlings.
|Status:||Protected nongame species|
Rivest, T.A. 1994. Short-eared owl mortality between mid-nestling age and dispersal. Pp. 296-304 in K. Steenhof, ed., Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, 1994 Annual Report. USDI Bur. Land Manage., Boise District.