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Short Eared Owl (Asio flammeus)

Short-eared Owl


  • The short-eared owl is about 36 centimetres (14 inches) long.


  • This is a light coloured owl with small ear tufts that are seldom visible.
  • In flight, the large, round, seemingly neckless head and dark patches on the underside of the wings are easily seen.
  • The upper parts of the body are a yellowish to buff color with brown streaking on the crown, neck and back, and barring on the wings.
  • The pale under-parts are heavily streaked with brown on the breast.
  • It is found throughout the province, except in the Rocky Mountains.
  • The breeding season is spent from the subarctic to the northern states.
  • Winter months are spent south of the summer range as far away as South America.
Natural History


  • The short-eared owl is a bird of the open grassland, marshes and farmland.


  • Predominantly a day hunter, the short-eared owl flies slowly over the ground in search of mice and voles.
  • During years when rodent populations are high, these owls tend to congregate in a greater abundance than any other bird of prey.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behavior

  • Nests are usually a lined depression on the ground.
  • Five to seven eggs are laid.
Conservation and Management


The short-eared owl is classified as May Be At Risk in the General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:

Also see the Status of the Short-eared Owl in Alberta report at:


  • Population size for this species is unknown and irruptive fluctuations in numbers make assessments difficult.

Current management

  • Like all birds of prey in Alberta, the short-eared owl is protected by the provincial Wildlife Act.
Related links


Page Information

Updated: Jan 8, 2014