Long-eared Owl

Asio otus

Class: Aves

Order: Strigiformes

Family: Strigidae

Range Map

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Long-eared Owl

The long-eared owl lives in forests, perching in trees where its mottled brown coloring allows it to blend into the bark. The protrusions on its head that give it its name aren't really ears, but feathers. Long-eared owls are very secretive.

Identification

General description: This crow-sized bird of prey has big eyes, short neck, and conspicuous tufts on the top of its head. Its round face is orange with a black-and-white outlined brownish blaze down the center.

Size: An adult long-eared owl is about 12 to 15 inches tall. It has a wingspan of 3 feet.

Color: The long-eared owl has a gray back and dark bars and streaks on a light breast. Other distinguishing marks include yellow eyes and a rusty-colored face.

Sounds: A long-eared owl makes many different sounds: hoots, shrieks, whistles, alarm calls. Sometimes they make quiet hoots, about three seconds apart. You're most likely to hear this owl during the breeding season.

Reproduction

Long-eared owls breed in March and April. The females lay four to five white eggs in abandoned nests in trees. The eggs hatch after 26 to 28 days, with female doing all the incubating. Long-eared owl parents may act crippled in order to distract predators from their young. The young fledge (learn to fly) at 23 to 36 days of age.

Food

The long-eared owl hunts in open spaces at night for voles and other small animals. Up to 90 percent of the long-eared owl's diet is made up of rodents. It will also eat birds, snakes, and insects. These owls can find their prey in complete darkness. Scientists think they rely on their sense of hearing to do so.

Predators

Great horned owls and barred owls. Raccoons prey upon eggs and nestlings.

Habitat and range

Long-eared owls live in either coniferous or deciduous forests in eastern and northern Minnesota.

Population and management

Long-eared owls are fairly common in Minnesota. Like other owls, they may not be shot, captured, transported, or owned without a permit.

Fun facts

The long-eared owl is rather thin for an owl. When it sits in a tree it stretches out tall so it resembles a tree branch. This may help protect it from predators.