Photo: Brian E. Small/Vireo

Long-eared Owl

Asio otus

This medium-sized owl is widespread but not particularly well known in North America. It seems to call less often or less conspicuously than many of our other owls, so it may be overlooked in some areas where it nests. In winter, sometimes groups of a dozen or more may be found roosting together in groves of conifers, willows, mesquites, or other trees.
Conservation status Status not well known; local numbers rise and fall, but some surveys and migration counts suggest that overall population in North America is declining. Loss of habitat may be part of cause.
Family Owls
Habitat Woodlands, conifer groves. Favored habitat includes dense trees for nesting and roosting, open country for hunting. Inhabits a wide variety of such settings, including forest with extensive meadows, groves of conifers or deciduous trees in prairie country, streamside groves in desert. Generally avoids unbroken forest.
This medium-sized owl is widespread but not particularly well known in North America. It seems to call less often or less conspicuously than many of our other owls, so it may be overlooked in some areas where it nests. In winter, sometimes groups of a dozen or more may be found roosting together in groves of conifers, willows, mesquites, or other trees.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • adult
  • adult
  • adult and nestling
Feeding Behavior

Hunts mostly at night, sometimes before dusk, especially when feeding young. Forages over fields or in open woods, flying back and forth a few feet above the ground. Locates prey by sound or by sight, then swoops down to capture it with talons.


Eggs

2-10, usually 4-6. White. Incubation is by female only, usually 26-28 days. Male brings food for female during incubation period. Young: Female remains with young almost continuously for first 2 weeks, while male brings food for female and young. In latter part of nestling period, female also hunts. Young climb out of nest onto nearby branches after about 3 weeks, can make short flights at about 5 weeks. Adult male feeds young until they are 10-11 weeks old, when they disperse from area.


Young

Female remains with young almost continuously for first 2 weeks, while male brings food for female and young. In latter part of nestling period, female also hunts. Young climb out of nest onto nearby branches after about 3 weeks, can make short flights at about 5 weeks. Adult male feeds young until they are 10-11 weeks old, when they disperse from area.

Diet

Mostly small mammals. Usually feeds heavily on common local rodents. Depending on region, may be mostly voles, deer mice, kangaroo rats, pocket gophers, etc. Also known to eat small birds, shrews, bats, lizards, snakes, other small creatures.


Nesting

Early in breeding season, male performs aerial display, flying in zigzags around nesting area with deep wingbeats and glides, occasionally clapping wings together loudly below body. Nest site is usually in tree, 4-30' above ground, usually at about mid-level in tree; sometimes in giant cactus or on cliff ledge. No nest built; uses abandoned nest built by other birds, such as crows, ravens, magpies, various hawks.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Some withdrawal in winter from northern part of breeding range, and some movement south into southeastern United States and Mexico, but species is found year-round in many regions. May be nomadic at times, moving about in response to changing food supplies.

Download Our Bird Guide App

Migration

Some withdrawal in winter from northern part of breeding range, and some movement south into southeastern United States and Mexico, but species is found year-round in many regions. May be nomadic at times, moving about in response to changing food supplies.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Soft low hoots; also whistles, whines, shrieks, and cat-like meows. Seldom heard except during breeding time.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Owls

Long-eared Owl

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
Zoom InOut

Explore Similar Birds