Long-eared Owl

Asio otus
Long-eared Owl specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

The long tufts of feathers on its forehead give the Long-eared Owl its name. Like all birds, however, the Long-eared Owl’s real ears are small openings hidden underneath the feathers on the sides of its head. This species possesses the short legs, rounded wings, large yellow eyes, and disk-shaped face characteristic of owls. Aside from its long ‘ears,’ this medium-sized (15 inches) owl may also be identified by its streaked body and buff-colored face. Males are generally slightly paler than females. The Long-eared Owl is widely distributed across the Northern Hemisphere. In North America, this species breeds primarily across southern Canada and the northern tier of the United States. Smaller populations occur in the Rocky Mountains, along the coast of California, and at high elevations in the Appalachian Mountains. The Long-eared Owl occurs year-round in its breeding range, but individuals may disperse long distances during winter in search of food, wandering as far as the southern United States and central Mexico. In the Old World, this species breeds from Northern Europe across to Japan, wintering south to North Africa and South Asia. Other non-migratory populations occur in highland climates in Africa and on islands south of this species’ main range. The Long-eared Owl breeds in open evergreen or deciduous forests. Individuals remaining on breeding grounds during winter utilize the same habitats as in summer; individuals wandering south utilize forest habitats in those areas. Typical for an owl, the Long-eared Owl eats small mammals, such as mice, voles, and shrews, and may be found in greater numbers where prey is plentiful. The Long-eared Owl uses its excellent hearing to locate prey on the ground in order to fly down and capture it with its talons. Also, like most owls, this species hunts almost exclusively at night, making it difficult to observe. Long-eared Owls are most visible roosting high in trees during the day, especially in winter, when this species may form large communal roosts.

DC Information

Formerly fairly common, now very rare permanent resident. Most common in winter in dense conifers. Nests very early in March and April. Female is larger than male.

Specimen Information

This is the record for the adult on the upper right.
Date:  1/9/1912
Collected By:  Grover H Palmer
Locality:  Rosslyn, Alexandria Co, VA
Sex:  Male
Catalog ID:  233472
This is the information for the juvenile on the lower left.
Date: 2/25/1882
Collected By: Geo Marshall
Locality: Laurel, MD
Sex: Male
Catalog ID: 113609

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC42326 Asio otus (Long-eared Owl)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC42327 Asio otus (Long-eared Owl)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC56688 Asio otus (Long-eared Owl)