Long Eared Owl Facts

Last Updated on April 22, 2023 by naime

As a senior ornithologist, I have spent decades studying the fascinating world of birds. One particular species that has always captured my attention is the long-eared owl (Asio otus). These enigmatic nocturnal creatures are known for their distinct appearance and behavior, making them a favorite among bird enthusiasts.

Long-eared owls can be found in various regions across the globe, including North America, Europe, and Asia. Despite their widespread distribution, these birds are relatively elusive and prefer to inhabit dense forests or open woodlands with mature trees. In this article, we will explore some interesting facts about long-eared owls, from their physical characteristics to their unique hunting strategies. Let us delve into the intriguing world of the long-eared owl together.

Physical Characteristics Of Long-Eared Owls

Long-eared owls (Asio otus) are medium-sized birds of prey that belong to the owl family, Strigidae. These nocturnal predators have a wingspan of up to 95 cm and can weigh anywhere from 200 to 400 grams. Their feathers are colored in various shades of brown with black streaks, which helps them blend into their environment during the day.

The long-eared owl’s most distinctive feature is its ear tufts, which are not actually ears but rather clusters of feathers located on either side of their heads. These tufts resemble horns or cat-like ears and give the illusion of larger size when raised for display purposes. The true location of their ears is at the sides of their head, where they have asymmetrical ear openings that allow them to locate prey by sound alone.

In addition to their hearing abilities, these owls have large eyes relative to their body size. Their eyes face forward and provide binocular vision, enabling them to judge distances accurately while hunting. Long-eared owls also possess specialized feather fringes along the edge of each wing called "filoplumes," which help reduce noise made by air passing over their wings as they fly.

Overall, long-eared owls’ physical characteristics make them well-suited predators for hunting small mammals such as mice and voles. They rely heavily on stealth and surprise attacks rather than speed or strength to catch their prey. Consequently, it is important for conservationists and ornithologists alike to understand how this species has adapted physically to survive in its habitat in order to protect it effectively against threats such as habitat loss or predation.

Habitat And Distribution

Long-eared Owls are known for their distinct physical characteristics, including prominent ear tufts and orange eyes. However, understanding these owls’ habitat and distribution is equally important in comprehending this species fully. Long-eared Owls can be found throughout North America, Eurasia, and northern Africa. These birds prefer to roost in dense forests with tall trees or large shrubs that provide cover from predators.

In North America, Long-eared Owls inhabit a wide range of habitats, including coniferous forests, deciduous woodlands, grasslands, and deserts. During winter months, they tend to move further south into warmer regions where food is more abundant. In contrast, during breeding season (late March through June), long-eared owls typically remain close to the same nesting site year after year. This behavior helps ensure access to suitable prey populations.

Long-eared Owls also exhibit unique behaviors when it comes to hunting tactics. They are nocturnal hunters who rely on silent flight to sneak up on unsuspecting prey such as small rodents like mice and voles. These owls hunt primarily by sound rather than sight since their ears are located at different heights on either side of their head allowing them to detect sounds with pinpoint accuracy.

Understanding the habitat and distribution of any bird species is essential for developing effective conservation strategies for its protection. For long-eared owls specifically, preserving mature forested areas with high densities of large trees will help maintain critical nesting sites while protecting key feeding grounds will support healthy population numbers. By working together to preserve these vital ecosystems across continents, we can ensure that future generations have the opportunity to appreciate the beauty and wonder of these magnificent creatures for years to come.

Nocturnal Behavior

As the sun sets and darkness envelops the forest, a world of nocturnal creatures awakens. The long-eared owl is among these animals that thrive in the cover of night. These owls are active mainly at dusk and dawn, but they can also be seen hunting during the night.

Nocturnal behavior is essential for the survival of long-eared owls. They use their exceptional hearing to locate prey under low light conditions. Unlike diurnal birds, long-eared owls have asymmetrically placed ear openings on their heads that allow them to pinpoint sounds accurately. Additionally, their soft feathers enable them to fly silently through the air without alerting prey.

The following are some fascinating facts about how nocturnal behavior affects long-eared owls:

  1. Their large eyes have more rods than cones, which means they can see better in low-light environments.
  2. Long-eared owls rely primarily on sound when detecting predators or potential mates.
  3. During breeding season, male long-eared owls hoot loudly throughout the night to attract females.

In summary, nocturnal behavior plays an integral role in the life of long-eared owls. Through adaptation and evolution over time, these birds have developed unique physical features that allow them to hunt effectively in darkness while avoiding detection from prey or predators alike. As such, our understanding of this aspect of their lives allows us to appreciate their complexity as well as enhance conservation efforts aimed at protecting them and other nocturnal species from extinction.

Diet And Hunting Strategies

The diet of long-eared owls varies depending on their location and the availability of prey. In general, they primarily feed on small mammals such as voles, mice, shrews, and rats. Occasionally, they also consume birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. These nocturnal predators are well adapted for hunting in low light conditions using a combination of sight and sound to locate their prey.

Long-eared owls employ different hunting strategies depending on the type of prey they are targeting. For instance, when searching for rodents in open areas such as fields or meadows, they glide silently above the ground while listening intently for any sounds made by their quarry. They may also perch on trees or fence posts near potential prey habitats and swoop down to catch unsuspecting animals passing below them. When hunting smaller creatures like insects or frogs, these owls will hover briefly before pouncing downward with pinpoint accuracy.

Although long-eared owls have excellent vision during daylight hours, they rely heavily on their acute hearing abilities at night. Their facial disc acts like a satellite dish that captures sound waves from all directions and focuses them toward their asymmetrical ear openings located at slightly different heights. This allows them to determine precisely where sounds are coming from so that they can zero in on their prey quickly.

In summary, long-eared owls are skilled hunters that use various techniques to capture an assortment of small mammals and other creatures. They hunt mainly at night using both sight and sound to detect potential targets accurately. Studying the dietary habits and hunting behaviors of these fascinating birds provides valuable insights into how different species adapt to survive in diverse environments around the world.

Vocalizations And Communication

As we have seen in the previous section, long-eared owls are highly skilled hunters with a diverse diet. Their hunting strategies involve stalking their prey from perches and swooping down on unsuspecting small mammals, birds, and insects. These elusive raptors remain hidden during the day and become active at night when they hunt under the cover of darkness.

Moving onto vocalizations and communication, it is worth noting that long-eared owls use various calls to communicate with each other. They produce soft hoots, barks, screeches, and whistles for territorial marking or attracting mates. Additionally, male owls perform courtship flights while calling out to females to establish their bond.

The significance of these sounds goes beyond mere conversation. Studies show that long-eared owl chicks learn to recognize their parents’ calls within days of birth. This early familiarity allows them to correctly identify family members amidst noisy surroundings such as bustling forests or windy nights.

See also  Long Eared Owl Chick

In conclusion, understanding the vocal behavior of long-eared owls provides valuable insights into their social structure and ecology. By analyzing their call patterns and learning how different individuals interact with one another through sound signals can help us better understand this enigmatic bird species. As an ornithologist dedicated to studying these fascinating creatures, I am continually amazed by their unique adaptations and behaviors that allow them to thrive in challenging environments worldwide.

Breeding And Reproduction

Long-eared owls (Asio otus) mate during the spring season, typically in April or May. Breeding pairs typically establish a nesting site in forested areas with dense vegetation and low human activity. Females typically lay a clutch of four to five eggs that they incubate for an average of 28 days. During incubation, the female is responsible for the majority of the incubation duties while the male regularly brings food to the female. Once the young have hatched, both parents cooperate in providing food to the nestlings until they are ready to leave the nest. After the young owls fledge, they are still dependent on their parents for several weeks.


The mating behavior of long eared owls is a fascinating subject for ornithologists. These birds mate during the winter months, with males actively seeking out females by calling out through hooting sounds to attract potential mates. Once a female has selected her partner, she will respond with similar calls and they will begin their courtship rituals.

Long eared owl pairs are monogamous and remain faithful to each other throughout the breeding season. The male provides food for his mate while she incubates their eggs, which typically hatch after 27-28 days. During this time, the male will also protect their territory from any potential threats.

Once the eggs have hatched, both parents take turns feeding and caring for their young until they are old enough to leave the nest at around six weeks of age. Long eared owls often produce large broods of up to seven chicks, making it important for both parents to work together in providing sufficient food for all offspring.

In conclusion, understanding the mating habits of long eared owls plays an essential role in conserving these beautiful creatures’ populations. Observations on how they select partners and care for their young provide valuable insight into conservation efforts aimed at preserving their habitats and ensuring that future generations can enjoy seeing them in the wild.


Long eared owls are known for their unique mating habits, but equally fascinating is their nesting behavior. These birds build their nests in dense coniferous forests, often using abandoned stick nests of other bird species as a foundation. The female owl will then line the nest with soft materials such as feathers and moss to create a comfortable environment for her eggs.

Once the eggs have hatched, both parents play an active role in caring for their young. Long eared owl chicks are born helpless and require constant attention and nourishment from their parents. The adults take turns feeding them small mammals such as mice and voles, which they hunt at night using their exceptional hearing abilities.

As the chicks grow older and become more independent, they begin to venture outside of the nest under the watchful eye of their parents. Eventually, they will leave the nest altogether and learn how to fly and hunt on their own. It is during this period that many young long-eared owls fall prey to larger predators or suffer accidents due to lack of experience.

Understanding the nesting habits of long eared owls provides important insights into conserving these magnificent creatures’ populations. Protecting critical habitats where these birds can safely build their nests and raise their young is essential for ensuring that future generations can enjoy seeing them in the wild.


Breeding and reproduction are essential aspects of the life cycle for any species, including avian creatures such as long-eared owls. Understanding how these birds breed, mate and raise their young is vital to ensuring proper conservation strategies that can protect them from extinction.

Incubation is a critical stage in the breeding process for long eared owls. After mating, the female owl will lay her eggs in a carefully constructed nest made up of soft materials like feathers and moss. The male bird then takes over incubating the eggs while the female hunts for food. Incubation lasts around 28 days, during which time both parents take turns keeping the eggs warm.

As soon as the chicks hatch, they are dependent on their parents for nourishment and protection. During this period, both adults play an active role in caring for their young by providing food and warmth. The mother bird continues to hunt while the father stays with his offspring to keep them safe from predators or other dangers.

During incubation and chick-rearing phases, it’s crucial to provide these birds with adequate habitat where they can thrive without disturbance or human interference. Protecting nesting sites from logging or development activities is one way to conserve populations of long eared owls effectively. It’s also important to educate people about these magnificent creatures so that they understand why conserving them is necessary for maintaining healthy ecosystems worldwide.

Lifespan And Mortality Factors

The lifespan of a long-eared owl is relatively short compared to other bird species. On average, they can live up to 4-5 years in the wild and around 10-12 years in captivity. However, some individuals have been known to live for up to 16 years in the wild, while others may not survive past their first year due to various mortality factors.

One of the main reasons for high mortality rates among young owls is predation by larger birds or mammals such as foxes or badgers. These predators are particularly active during breeding season when nests are more vulnerable. Additionally, habitat loss and fragmentation also contribute significantly to reduced survival rates among these birds.

Adult long-eared owls face fewer threats from predators but still experience mortality caused by collisions with vehicles and flying into man-made structures like buildings and wind turbines. They may also suffer from disease outbreaks that affect their populations periodically.

In summary, despite being able to adapt well to different habitats, long-eared owls have a shorter lifespan than many bird species due to various factors including predation, habitat loss, and human activities. Understanding these factors and their impacts on long-eared owl populations is crucial for effective conservation efforts aimed at preserving this unique species for future generations.

Threats And Conservation Status

Threats to the long-eared owl are mainly due to habitat loss and degradation. These owls prefer dense forests with a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees, but deforestation has left many areas unsuitable for their needs. Additionally, urbanization, agriculture, and development have resulted in fragmentation of suitable habitats leading to decreased breeding success rates.

Another threat is human disturbance during breeding season as these birds are sensitive to any kind of interference. Nest abandonment or destruction can occur if disturbed too frequently by humans or pets. Moreover, illegal hunting also occurs globally as they are mistakenly believed to be harmful predators of game species such as rabbits.

Conservation status of the long-eared owl varies around the world based on regional population trends. In North America, populations appear stable while in Europe some countries report declining numbers since 1980s. IUCN lists this species as “Least Concern” overall but several subspecies are listed under different categories depending on region-specific threats and conservation efforts.

To mitigate potential threats, various conservation measures have been suggested including habitat restoration projects that create better nesting sites; protected area management plans limiting disturbance from visitors; educational campaigns aimed at reducing illegal hunting activities; research initiatives focused on improving our understanding of population dynamics and biology of these elusive owls. Such efforts require collaboration between policymakers, biologists, landowners, NGOs and local communities to ensure effective implementation over time.

See also  Long Eared Owl

Cultural Significance And Folklore

Back in ancient Greece, the long-eared owl was considered a symbol of wisdom and knowledge. It often appeared on coins as well as pottery, indicating its cultural significance during that period. Later on, in medieval Europe, the species became associated with witches and dark magic due to their nocturnal habits and eerie calls. This negative connotation persisted into modern times, where it is still seen as an omen of bad luck or death by some cultures.

Despite this folklore surrounding the bird, scientific research has shown that the long-eared owl plays a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance. As predators at the top of their food chain, they help regulate populations of smaller mammals such as rodents and insects. Additionally, their presence can indicate healthy forest ecosystems with ample nesting sites and prey availability for owls.

In Native American culture, the long-eared owl holds spiritual significance. Some tribes believe that hearing its call signifies impending danger while others see it as a messenger from the spirit world or a symbol of transition between life and death. The Hopi tribe even considers it one of their sacred clan animals.

As ornithologists continue to study these fascinating creatures across different cultures around the globe, we gain further insight into how humans have interacted with them throughout history. While myths and legends may persist around certain species like the long-eared owl, objective scientific observation remains essential in understanding their true value within our natural world.

Tips For Spotting Long-Eared Owls In The Wild

Long-eared owls are known for their excellent camouflage and elusive nature, which can make them difficult to spot in the wild. However, with some tips and a bit of patience, it is possible to catch a glimpse of these fascinating creatures.

One key tip for spotting long-eared owls is to look for them at dawn or dusk when they are most active. During the day, they often roost in dense foliage or coniferous trees where they blend in seamlessly with their surroundings. At sunset, however, they will begin to hunt small mammals like voles and mice on open ground near their roosting sites.

Another helpful technique is to listen for their distinctive calls. Long-eared owls have a range of vocalizations including hoots, barks, and screeches that can help locate them even if they are hidden from view. They may also respond to recorded owl calls played back softly.

If you’re lucky enough to spot a long-eared owl, take note of its behavior and habitat preferences. These birds prefer mixed forests with both deciduous and coniferous trees and tend to avoid urban areas. They typically nest in abandoned crow or magpie nests but may also use cavities in trees.

To increase your chances of seeing a long-eared owl up close, consider taking a guided birdwatching tour led by an experienced naturalist who knows where these birds are likely to be found. With some preparation and persistence, anyone can enjoy the thrill of sighting one of nature’s most enigmatic creatures.

  • Look for dense foliage or coniferous trees during the day
  • Try looking at dawn or dusk when they’re hunting
  • Listen out for distinct vocalizations such as hoots and screeches
  • Take note of its behaviour; prefers mixed forests with both deciduous/coniferous trees – Keep a safe distance and observe silently to avoid scaring them away.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Long-Eared Owls Mate?

The mating behavior of owls is an intriguing subject that has fascinated ornithologists for years. The process involves a complex set of behaviors, from courtship displays to copulation rituals. Long-eared owls are no exception and have unique characteristics in their breeding habits. Male long-eared owls will usually start the mating ritual by calling out to potential mates with a series of hoots, while females respond with high-pitched whistles. Once they establish contact, these birds engage in intricate courtship dances which involve head bobbing and mutual preening. Copulation occurs swiftly after courtship, generally during early spring months when food sources become abundant. These fascinating creatures also exhibit monogamous relationships throughout the breeding season, often staying together until offspring fledge the nest. Such interesting aspects make researching and understanding owl’s reproductive biology crucial to protect them further as various species face extinction due to habitat loss and climate change factors globally.

What Is The Population Size Of Long-Eared Owls?

The population size of long-eared owls (Asio otus) is difficult to estimate due to their elusive nature and nocturnal habits. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the global population trend is unknown, but it is believed to be stable. In North America, where they are found throughout much of the continent, estimates suggest that there may be anywhere from 200,000 to over one million individuals. However, these numbers are based on limited data and are highly uncertain. Long-eared owl populations may face threats such as habitat loss and fragmentation, predation by larger birds and mammals, and pesticide exposure. Further research into their distribution and abundance will help inform conservation efforts for this species.

Can Long-Eared Owls Swim?

It is with great amusement that I address the question of whether or not long-eared owls can swim. Although these creatures are highly skilled hunters, their expertise does not extend to aquatic environments. Long-eared owls lack the necessary adaptations for swimming such as webbed feet and water-repellent feathers. Additionally, they tend to avoid bodies of water altogether, preferring instead to hunt in dry grasslands and forests. Therefore, it would be safe to say that long-eared owls are land birds through and through. While this fact may disappoint those hoping for a more amphibious avian friend, it remains an interesting tidbit about these fascinating creatures nonetheless.

How Do Long-Eared Owls Defend Themselves From Predators?

Long-eared owls have several mechanisms for defending themselves from predators, including camouflage and vocalizations. Their cryptic coloration allows them to blend in with their surroundings, making it difficult for predators to spot them. Additionally, long-eared owls are known for their distinctive hooting calls, which they use to communicate with each other and establish territory. In the face of danger, these birds may also engage in “mobbing” behavior, where a group of individuals will harass and intimidate potential predators until they retreat. Overall, the defensive strategies employed by long-eared owls help ensure their survival in the wild despite the numerous threats posed by predators.

Do Long-Eared Owls Migrate?

Long-eared owls are known for their distinct ear tufts and cryptic plumage, making them a fascinating species to study. One commonly asked question regarding these birds is whether or not they migrate. Research has shown that long-eared owls are indeed migratory, with populations in northern latitudes moving southward during winter months. However, migration patterns can vary depending on location and environmental conditions. It is important to continue studying the movements of these magnificent creatures in order to better understand their behavior and protect their habitats throughout their range.


Long-eared owls are fascinating creatures that possess unique characteristics and behaviors. These birds mate through a courtship ritual, where the male will present food to the female as a sign of his interest. The population size of long-eared owls is difficult to determine due to their secretive nature, but it is believed they have stable populations in certain regions.

Although not known for their swimming abilities, long-eared owls can swim short distances if necessary. Their main defense mechanism against predators is camouflage and remaining motionless, but they may also use vocalizations or physical attacks if provoked. Long-eared owls typically do not migrate unless there is a shortage of food or severe weather conditions.

In conclusion, long-eared owls are an intriguing species with various adaptations that allow them to thrive in their habitats. As senior ornithologists, we must continue to study and protect these magnificent birds to ensure their survival for future generations. Coincidentally, the beauty and mystery surrounding these creatures make them a symbol of wisdom and grace in many cultures around the world, reminding us of the importance of preserving our natural world.

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