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Long-eared Owl - BirdForum Opus

Nominate subspecies
Photo by Alok Tewari
Talchhapar Blackbuck Sanctuary, Churu, Rajasthan, India, 24 February 2022

Alternative name: Northern Long-eared Owl

Asio otus
Subspecies A. o. wilsonianus
Photo by Etow
North-central Ohio, USA, 26 March 2007


Male 35–38 cm (13¾-15 in), female 37–40 cm (14½-15¾ in); a medium sized owl

  • Orange face
  • Two long 'ears'
  • Grey and rufous-buff overall plumage

When seen close to it can look surprisingly cat-like.


Occurs across Europe, Asia and North America, widespread and fairly common over much of the Western Palearctic.

Breeds in Britain and Ireland, and from Iberia east to the Urals and Caspian, north to central Norway coast and head of the Gulf of Bothnia. Found south to the north Mediterranean coast from southern Spain to Greece and breeds on Balearics and at a few scattered sites in Turkey. Also breeds in the Azores and Canary Islands and rarely in North-West Africa. First breeding record for Egypt in 1987 and may breed at scattered sites in the Middle East.

Northern birds are mainly migratory, leaving breeding areas in October-November to winter in western and southern Europe, and returning in March-May, those further south are resident with some dispersal of young birds.

Vagrants recorded on Svalbard, Bear Island, Iceland and the Faroes to the north, and to the south in Kuwait and Iraq.


Nominate subspecies. Notice the streaked and cross hatched pattern on the underside reaching far down the belly, contra Short-eared Owl
Photo by lior kislev
Samak wadi, Golan, Israel, 18 March 2009


There are four recognised subspecies[1]:

  • A. o. tuftsi:
  • Western Canada to north-western Baja, southern Texas and northern Mexico (Nuevo León)
  • A. o. wilsonianus:
  • South-central and south-eastern Canada to south-central US
  • A. o. otus:
  • A. o. canariensis:


Nominate subspecies. Notice the lack of a white terminal band on the secondaries (arm), contra Short-eared Owl
Photo © by Prestdj
Green Withens Reservoir, West Yorkshire, England, 6 August, 2008

Deciduous, mixed and coniferous woodland and forest.


Migrates in winter (example: to United Kingdom from Scandinavia). Sometimes forms large, communal roosts during daytime in autumn and winter

Nocturnal and crepuscular.


Diet is mainly voles and small rodents. They are also known to eat small birds.


It nests in old nest of other birds.



  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, S. M. Billerman, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2022. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2022. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved October 2015)
  3. Collins Field Guide 5th Edition
  4. Birdforum thread discussing id of young just out of the nest

Recommended Citation

External Links

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