The Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) is a species of typical owl. Asio flammeus will display its tufts when in a defensive pose. However, its very short tufts are usually not visible. The Short-eared Owl is found in open country and grasslands.
Asio flammeus, the Short-eared Owl, is a medium-sized owl averaging 34–43 cm (13 to 17 inches) in length and weighing 206–475 grams (11 to 13 ounces). It has large eyes, big head, short neck, and broad wings. Its bill is short, strong, hooked and black. Its plumage is mottled tawny to brown with a barred tail and wings. The upper breast is significantly streaked (Alsop 2001). Wingspans range from 85 to 103 cm (38 to 44 inches). Females are slightly larger than males. The yellow-orange eyes of A. flammeus are exaggerated by black rings encircling each eye, and large, whitish disks of plumage surrounding the eyes like a mask.
Nesting and reproductionEdit
The Short-eared Owl nests on the ground in prairie, tundra, savanna, or meadow habitats. Nests are concealed by low vegetation, and may be lightly lined by weeds, grass, or feathers (Ehrlich 1988). Approximately 4 to 7 white eggs are found in a typical clutch, but clutch size can reach up to a dozen eggs in years when voles are abundant. There is one brood per year. The eggs are incubated mostly by the female for 21–37 days. Offspring fledge at a little over four weeks. This owl is known to lure predators away from its nest by appearing to have a crippled wing.
Sexual maturity is attained at one year. Breeding season in the northern hemisphere lasts from March to June, peaking in April. During this time these owls may gather in flocks. During breeding season, the males make great spectacles of themselves in flight to attract females. The male swoops down over the nest flapping its wings in a courtship display. These owls are generally monogamous.
Diet and foraging habitsEdit
Hunting occurs mostly at night, but this owl is diurnal and crepuscular as well as nocturnal. Its daylight hunting seems to coincide with the high-activity periods of voles, its preferred prey. It tends to fly only feet above the ground in open fields and grasslands until swooping down upon its prey feet-first. Several owls may hunt over the same open area). Its food consists mainly of rodents, especially voles, but it will eat other small mammals and some large insects. Sometimes it even tends to eat smaller birds. Its flight is characteristically floppy due to its irregular wingbeats. The Short-eared Owl may also be described as "moth or bat-like" in flight.