|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.|
|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.|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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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
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsSoft low hoots; also whistles, whines, shrieks, and cat-like meows. Seldom heard except during breeding time.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Long-eared Owl
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Long-eared Owl
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.