Asio flammeus - Short-eared owl:

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Summary Information
Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Aves / Strigiformes / Strigidae / Asio / Species
Alternative Names
  • Velduil (Dutch)
  • Hibou des marais (French)
  • Sumpfohreule (German)
  • Gufo di palude (Italian)
  • Lechuza campestre (Spanish)
  • Jorduggla (Swedish)
Description Weight:
  • Male: 260-350g (B162)
  • Female: 280-420g (B162)

Length: 37-39cm (B162); 33-40cm (B164); 38cm (B165).

Wingspan: 95-105cm (B164).

External Appearance: Medium-sized owl with wings very long, narrow, rather pointed. Head: small, rounded, with minute ear tufts (rarely seen; raised when disturbed). (B163, B164, B165).

  • Adult:
  • Dorsal: pale yellow-brown with heavy dark streaking. Tail: boldly barred, and with white trailing edge. Underparts: buff-white, with breast heavily streaked, abdomen nearly unmarked.
  • Face: pale buff, with pink-buff tinge; eyes: yellow, with small black patches surrounding. Bill: black.
  • Wings: Flight feathers pale yellow-brown (clear area visible at base on primaries) marked with two or three black bands towards tip, and white trailing edge. underside pale buff-white, with tip of wing black and single bold dark bar part way along.
  • Feet: feathered; buff-white.
  • (B164, B165).
  • Female: generally more heavily streaked, with underparts and face darker than in male (B164)
  • Juvenile: More extensive black around eyes, less or absent markings on breast (B162)
  • Nestling:


Range and Habitat Widespread northern Europe, Asia, North America, into South America (B163).
  • Britain: found locally in North, sporadically in south; relatively scarce (B164)


Spitsbergen, Bear Island, Jan Mayen Island, Azores, Madeira, Cape Verde Islands (B162).


  • Northern Europe mainly migratory, elsewhere sedentary (B164).
  • Winter across Europe, south Asia, Africa south of Sahara, North America (B163).
  • Migratory or partially migratory (B162).


  • Breeding:
  • Heathland, scrub among meadows, on bogs particularly in upper tree zone in open boreal forests (B164); moorland and sand dunes (B165); open country: tundra, marshes, young conifer plantations (B163).
  • In Britain: moorland heath, hillsides with recent plantations, extensive rough grazing, marshes, bogs, sand dunes, inshore islands (B162)

Winter habitat:

  • Includes agricultural fields, salt marshes, steppes, deserts (B162, B163)

Mainly lowlands, but in Armenia up to 2000-2350m (B162)

Further Information Food:
  • Voles, other small mammals.
  • Small- to medium-sized birds.

(B162, B163, B164)

Feeding Behaviour:

  • Day and night.
  • Low searching flights, often hover before pouncing down onto prey.
  • Also search from perch.

(B162, B163


  • Eggs laid: (Britain and north-west Europe) starts late February or March (B162).
  • Nest: On ground, usually in cover such as grass, reeds or heather, scrape lined with vegetation (B162, B163, B164).
  • Eggs white, unmarked, smooth but not glossy, elliptical, 40mm., usually 4-8, may be up to 16 (possibly from two females in one nest) (B162, B163).
  • broods: Usually one brood, occasionally two (when voles particularly abundant) (B162, B163).
  • Incubation: 24-29 days (B162); 24-28 days (B163).
  • Hatching: asynchronous (B163).
  • Chicks: semi-altricial (B163).
  • Fledging: 24-27 days (B162, B163) but leave nest 12-17 days (B162).

Breeding Behaviour:

  • Monogamous seasonal pair bond, probably not renewed one year to next (B162, B163).
  • Nest built by female.
  • Eggs incubated by female.
  • Chicks tended by both parents and dependant on adults for several weeks after leaving nest.



Social Behaviour:

  • Territorial in breeding season.
  • Otherwise mainly solitary.
  • Sometimes small parties on migration and larger gatherings locally where food abundant.

(B162, B163).

Organisations (UK Contacts):

Electronic Library (further reading):

General Legislation:

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Individual techniques:

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