Long Eared Owl Bird (Asio otus)

long eared owl

The long eared owl, also known as the northern long-eared owl, lesser horned owl, Asio otus, cat owl, or long-eared owl, is a species of owl native to North America. It has very large ear tufts and can be found in open habitats, such as fields and grasslands, where it hunts small mammals and birds by night.

The owls are one of the few species of owls to hunt during the day as well, especially when they are nesting and raising their young. Northern long-eared owls have been considered rare and endangered in some states since the early 2000s, but recent conservation efforts have had positive results, making them more common again in some areas.

Asio otus is often colloquially called the brown owl or the hoot owl, and it’s considered to be one of the most common owls in North America, since its population density is quite high. It generally lives in wooded areas where it can find easy prey like rodents and rabbits; however, it can be found anywhere from prairies to deserts as long as the food is available.

The northern long-eared owl is a small to medium-sized species of owl (family Strigidae) that can appear quite dark overall but has very pale underparts, with barred feathers on its chest and irregularly barred feathers on its belly and flanks. Long eared owls are active mainly at night but can also be seen during the day.

Description

long eared owl

The long eared owl bird is a cat owl in the genus Asio, which makes it one of four species of horned owls. The bird has white feathers with brown barring along its wings and dark-gray spots on its body, head, and shoulders. It is also much smaller than other types of owls.

They weigh up to 350 grams, while great horned owls can weigh up to 1.5 kilograms! The lesser horned owl lives in North America and Europe. They typically nest in tree cavities or rock crevices where they roost during the day. Lesser horned owls are active mostly at night time because they cannot see very well during the day due to their light-sensitive eyes.

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The long-eared owl is also called the cat owl or lesser horned owl. It has traditionally been a migratory bird living in Eurasia and North America but may now be resident or partially migratory. This breed has light grayish brown to golden brown feathers with small dark brown spots on the back and chest that look like tribal tattoos.

Long-eared owl scientific name

The scientific name of the long eared owl is Asio otus

Long-eared owl habitat

Owls are often found in and around open areas with a variety of trees and ground cover. This includes woodlands, forest edges, agricultural fields, grasslands, shrublands, wetlands, parks, and neighborhoods. Otus long-eared owls typically live near orchards or other nut trees like walnut.

Long eared owl size

The long eared owl bird is a medium-sized owl with an average body weight of 220 to 435 g (7.8 to 15.3 ounces), a length of 12 to 16 inches (30.5 to 40.5 cm), and a wingspan of 35 to 39 inches (89 to 99 cm).

Long eared owl feather and plumage

long eared owl

This bird’s plumage can be distinguished by its dark-brown upper parts and off-white underparts with some black markings on its breast. It has soft feathers which cover the external ear openings and an indistinct facial disk with a small tuft of feathers at the top of its head.

Molting

Unlike birds of prey, owls have a unique system for molting and that’s why they seem to be covered in feathers when they return from winter. Underneath the fluffy feathers, are molted hair and old feathers that have been pushed out.

Old feather shafts are replaced with new ones, which makes their plumage more vibrant and colorful again. But even though it appears as if owls can grow all of their feathers at once, it takes about six months for all of them to regenerate.

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Nesting behavior

Normally, long-eared owls nest in dense vegetation which is built by other animals. Stick nests of large birds are preferred by them. Nests are rarely built by them, but they might sometimes use an old tree stump or a nest on the ground as a nest. Two to ten eggs (usually five to six) are laid at a 2-day interval by the female once she selects a nest.

Diet and foraging

These owls are opportunistic eaters and hunt in a variety of ways. They can be seen hunting over open fields, lowland woods, hillsides, and coastlines. They prey on small mammals including voles, mice, shrews, rabbits, and squirrels as well as birds up to the size of grouse.

Long-eared owl call and sounds

Outside of the breeding season, long-eared owls are quiet most of the time, but during the breeding season, they demonstrate an amazingly diverse repertoire of sounds.
Males will sound about 10 to more than 200 whoo notes every 2 to 4 seconds. You can hear this deep, forceful utterance from more than half a mile away, akin to blowing across the lip of a large bottle.

Unlike the male’s advertising song, the female’s nest call is higher pitched and has more harmonics; the noise is more like a bleating lamb or blowing through a comb and paper. Alarm calls of both sexes include barks, squeals, and a gruff, catlike mew.

Additionally, perturbed long eared owls snap their jaws together, causing a loud pop. Both sexes clap their wings during courtship and at other times, to produce a whip-like sound during flight.

Breeding

long eared owl

The breeding season for long-eared owls is between February and July. Each season, they raise one brood. Nests of long-eared owls are built by other species in trees. A female lays 2 to 10 (usually 5 to 6) eggs once she chooses a nest. On an alternating basis, she lays an egg on each of those days.

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The eggs are glossy, smooth, and white. The female usually incubates the eggs for 25 to 30 days ( but usually 26 to 28 days on average). During the day, she always covers the eggs but takes small breaks during the night.

Chicks are semi-altricial, and for 2 weeks, the female does nothing but take care of them. Baby owls leave the nest when they are about three weeks old, but cannot fly at this point. The baby birds leave the nests by walking and live nearby on branches.

About 35 days after birth, they begin to fly. Until the chicks become independent, around 10 and 11 weeks of age, the male supplies food for the female and chicks. Long eared owls are generally ready to start breeding at 1 year old.

Long eared owl lifespan

If the long eared owl bird is lucky, it will live for about 10 to 30 years. However, their average lifespan is 11 years.

Movements and migration

The long eared owl can typically be found in North America, but they have also been known to migrate southwards as well. The bird is an all-year-round resident of northern Canada and can sometimes be seen on the west coast of America.

Diseases and threats

Threats against these species include habitat destruction, hunting, and overuse of the species in medical research. They are also threatened by fragmentation, hunting, and environmental toxins.

Long eared owls population status

On the IUCN Red List, there are between 2,180,000 and 5,540,000 mature long eared owls. 304,000 to 776,000 pairs make up the European population, which equates to 609,000 to 1,550,000 mature birds. IUCN classifies this species as Least Concern (LC) on its Red List, but long eared owls numbers are declining every day.

Conservation and management

The management and conservation of the long eared owls are aided by scientists and organizations such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Nature Conservancy, Worldwatch Institute, Bat Conservation International, and others.

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They research the long eared owl’s natural history and care for injured or sick owls. Scientists study their distribution and population trends to determine how best to protect them in specific locations. Organizations work with governments to establish new parks, reserves, and sanctuaries that are designed to be safe havens for threatened species like the cat owl.

They are also protected under the Migratory and Endangered Species Act of 1973. It’s also classified as a threatened species by The International Union for Conservation of Nature, due to its populations declining or becoming low in certain regions. Under the U.S.