Long-eared Owl

Long-eared Owl

Details About The Long-eared Owl

  • General Information

    The Long-eared Owl is a medium-sized owl with legs and toes densely feathered. Its head is large and round with conspicuous "ear" tufts and a round facial disk. These owls have yellow to golden yellow or orange eyes. Their wings are long and rounded with 10 functional primaries. Their facial disk is buff with white "eyebrows" and a white patch below bill; its lores and bill are black. Males are generally paler than females, especially the facial disk, tarsi, and underwing coverts. Overall, female plumage tends to have more dark brown and richer buff.

    Latin Name: Asio otus
    Class: Aves
    Order: Strigiformes
    Family: Strigidae
    Length: 13-16 inches
    Weight: 8-15 ounces
    Wingspan: 36-42 inches
    Common Name: Cat Owl
    Etymology: cat owl asio (Latin) - "a kind of horned owl"; otus (Latin) - "a horned or eared owl"

  • Flight, Voice & Habitat

    The Long-eared Owl's wings beat fast, interrupted by short glides. Hunting flight consists of long glides on level wings interrupted by deep wing beats. This owl often pulls up and hovers over its prey. The bird is extremely agile, using quick twists and turns when flying through dense vegetation.

    Long-eared owls have a complex vocal repertoire in breeding season, but they are mostly silent at other times. Alarm calls are variable and given by both sexes. The most common is a barking ooack ooack ooack. Call is higher pitched in females than in males, presumably because females have a smaller syrinx.

    The Long-eared Owl inhabits open and sparsely forested habitats across North America and Eurasia between 30 and 65 N latitude. They Inhabit dense vegetation adjacent to grasslands or shrublands; also open forests.

  • Nesting

    The male performs courtship flights over suitable nesting habitat. The female sits in potential nests shortly before laying and thus probably selects nest site. A typical site is a stick nest built in a tree by another species of bird (magpie, crow, and ravens). In general, no material is added to nest lining. Long-eared owls lay 2-10 (usually 5-6) eggs. Incubation is by the female only, normally lasting 26-28 days. The male feeds the female throughout incubation. Owlets leave nest at 21 days old and are about 35 days old when they begin making short flights. The females feed the young until deserting when young are 6.5-8 weeks old; the male continues to provision young for 2-3 weeks after the female deserts.

  • Distribution

    Long-eared Owls are found in Canada; south to north Baja California, southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, east to Pennsylvania, New York, and northern New England.

  • Food

    The Long-eared Owl typically hunts at night on the wing over open ground, coursing back and forth approx. .5-2 meters above ground, occasionally hovering. They may hunt from a perch. This species kills small mammals by biting the back of its skull and often swallows its prey whole. The owl can capture mice in complete darkness due to its great hearing facilitated by external ear openings asymmetrical and large.

  • Current Resident Birds

    Carolina Raptor Center does not currently have a Long-eared Owl in residence.

  • Fun Facts & Other Interesting Information

    Long-eared Owls are lanky owls that often seem to wear a surprised expression thanks to long ear tufts that typically point straight up like exclamation marks. Boo! I see you.

    "Long-eared Owl - Strix otus" as Plate 383 in Birds of America, published London, 1827-38. The print was engraved by Robert Havell in 1837. The original watercolor is currenty owned by The New York Historical Society.