Scientific name: Asio otus
Status: Scarce resident breeding species
Breeding birds: 1,800-6,000 pairs
Conservation status: Green
Length: 39 – 40 cm
Wingspan: 72 – 90 cm
Weight: 260 – 360 g
Long-eared owls have brown and buff plumage which is heavily barred and mottled. Their upperparts are mottled with black, buff, brown, and white, while their underparts are more pale grey or buff with brown vertical streaks and barring.
They have a long tail and rounded wings that cross over each other at the back when the owl is perched.
Long-eared owls have large, rounded heads with two long dark ear tufts located in the centre of the head and which are hidden in flight.
They have a large rusty-brown facial disk, with black and grey edges and their eyebrows and lores are white. They have black bills, orange or yellow eyes, and feathered legs and feet.
Female long-eared owls are darker, more colourful, and larger than the male.
Juveniles are similar to the adults but their feathers are softer and looser.
Long-eared owls nest in woods in dense vegetation. They breed between February and July and produce one brood per season. They will usually use abandoned nests made from sticks, built by other species.
Long-eared owls lay 4-5 white, smooth, glossy eggs which are incubated by the female alone for 25-30 days. She will remain at the nest all day but will take short breaks at night. The male will bring her food.
The chicks are semi-altricial and are brooded by the female for 2 weeks. They leave the nest at 3 weeks but are unable to fly and stay on nearby branches. At about 35 days after hatching they make short flights and become independent at 10-11 weeks. They reach sexual maturity at one year.
Long-eared owls prey on small mammals weighing less than 100 g, such as voles, juvenile rabbits, and rats. They may also eat small birds, snakes, and lizards.
Where to see them
Long-eared owls can be seen all year round. They are nocturnal and secretive so unlikely to be seen except during migration in coastal areas, or when returning to a roosting site in winter.
Did you know?
Long-eared owls make highly variable vocalizations. A study in Michigan recorded long-eared owls making 23 different sounds and they are considered the most diverse vocalists of all owl species in the Northern hemisphere.