Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared Owl

Key facts

Scientific name: Asio flammeus

Status: Resident breeding species and winter visitor

Breeding birds: 620 – 2.180 pairs

Conservation status: Amber

Length: 34 – 42 cm

Wingspan: 90 – 105 cm

Weight: 260 – 350 g


Short-eared owls are medium-sized and fairly bulky. They have mottled brown and buff upperparts and pale buff underparts streaked with honey-brown. Their large, broad wings are buff with brown spots and bars. There is a light ochre patch and black patch on their underwings.

Short-eared owls have large, rounded heads with short ear tufts. Their facial discs are pale grey with black surrounding their eyes. Their chins and foreheads are white.

Short-eared owls have black bills, yellow eyes, and white feathered legs and feet.

Females are larger than males and they are browner and more heavily streaked.

Juvenile short-eared owls have darker crowns and rumps, brown facial discs, and buff underparts.  


Short-eared owls nest in a scrape in the ground. Females build the nest which is lined with grass and feathers.

Short-eared owls lay 4-10 white eggs which are incubated for 24-29 days mostly by the female. Chicks can leave the nest at around 12 days old and reach sexual maturity at a year.  


Short-eared owls are nocturnal hunting at night. They eat mainly small mammals such as voles, mice, squirrels, rats, bats, shrews, and rabbits. They will also catch small birds.   

Short-Eared Owl

Where to see them

Short-eared owls breed in northern England and Scotland, but are seen more widely in winter. Look for them on coastal marshes and wetlands.    


Karl-Birger Strann/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Short-eared owls begin calling while they are still inside the egg. It is a high-pitched sound which becomes lower in pitch at around 7 days old. 

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