The Short-eared owl, is 34-43 cm (13-17 in) in long and weighing 206-475 g. It has large eyes, a big head, a short neck, and broad wings. Its bill is short, strong, hooked and black. Its plumage is mottled tawny to brown with a barred tail and wings. The upper breast is streaked. Its flight is floppy due to its irregular wingbeats. The bird may also be described as `moth or bat-like` in flight. Wingspans range from 85 to 110 cm (33 to 43 in). Females are slightly larger than males. The yellow-orange eyes of A. flammeus have black rings encircling each eye, giving the appearance of them wearing Mascara, and large, whitish disks of plumage surrounding the eyes like a mask.

Habitat and Distribution

The Short-eared owl occurs on all continents except Antarctica and Australia; thus it has one of the largest distributions of any bird. A. flammeus breeds in Europe, Asia, North and South America, the Caribbean, Hawaii and the Gal?pagos Islands. It is partially migratory, moving south in winter from the northern parts of its range.


It tends to fly only feet above the ground in open fields and grasslands until swooping down upon its prey feet-first. Its food consists mainly of rodents, especially voles, but it will eat other small mammals .


The breeding season in the northern hemisphere is from March to June, peaking in April. They nest on the ground in prairie, tundra, savanna, or meadow habitats. Nests are concealed by low vegetation, and may be lightly lined by weeds, grass, or feathers. Approximately 4 to 7 white eggs are found in a typical clutch, but clutch size can reach up to a dozen eggs in years when voles are abundant. There is one brood per year. The eggs are incubated mostly by the female for 21-37 days.

Calls and Songs

They have a scratchy bark-like call. Raspy waowk, waowk, waowk or toot-toot-toot-toot-toot sounds are common. A loud eeee-yerp is also heard on breeding grounds. However, Short-eared Owls are silent on the wintering grounds.