Berry – Short-eared Owl
Received: February 2017
In February of 2017, Berry came to World Bird Sanctuary from Raptor Recovery Nebraska after being treated for a wing injury that left her unable to return to the wild.
Being a WBS resident, she helps educate visitors about Short-eared Owls. Berry is named in honor of Chuck Berry who passed away the day she arrived.
Species: Short-eared Owl
Scientific Name: Asio flammeus
Description: Short-eared Owls are medium-sized owls with rounded heads. The “ears” mentioned in their name are difficult to see. The wings are broad and the tips are smoothly rounded. The tail is short. Short-eared Owls are medium brown spotted with buff and white on the upperparts. The face is pale with yellow eyes accentuated by black outlines. The breast is heavily streaked with brown; the chest and belly are pale or buffy. The pale underwing has a dark comma-shaped mark near the wrist, and the upperwing shows a pale patch in the primaries.
Sex: Female slighter larger and heavier than male.
Age: The longevity record for a Short-eared Owl in the wild is 13 years.
Length: 13.4″ – 16.9″
Wingspan: 33.5″ – 40.6″
Weight: 7.3 – 16.8 oz
Habitat: Short-eared Owls live in large, open areas with low vegetation, including prairie and coastal grasslands, heathlands, meadows, shrubsteppe, savanna, tundra, marshes, dunes, and agricultural areas. Winter habitat is similar, but is more likely to include large open areas within woodlots, stubble fields, fresh and saltwater marshes, weedy fields, dumps, gravel pits, rock quarries, and shrub thickets. When food is plentiful, winter areas often become breeding areas.
Status: In Missouri, a Species of Conservation Concern, for its declining numbers.
Range: Short-eared Owls are found on all continents except Antarctica and Australia; thus it has one of the most widespread distributions of any bird.
Behavior: The Short-eared Owl is one of the few owls to construct its own nest: a bowl scraped out of the ground by the female and lined with grasses and downy feathers. They build nests on the ground and often in loose colonies, which may enable them to more quickly identify predators when they are detected. They also perches low on bushes, fence posts and on the ground and commonly active during day. Its characteristic flight is buoyant and butterfly-like as it flies across open fields close to the ground.
Diet: Short-eared Owls eat mostly small mammals, especially mice and voles, but will also eat birds.
Vocalization: Short-eared owls are not especially vocal. The primary call, a series of a dozen or more hoots, is given by males during courtship flight and also from the ground or from an elevated perch. Both males and females may bark, scream, or whine when defending the nest and offspring. Females sometimes utter a chicken-like cluck.
- In Missouri, a Species of Conservation Concern and is declining across the continent, mostly due to habitat loss and human development.
- Hawaii’s only native owl, the pueo, is a Short-eared Owl subspecies found on all the chain’s major islands.