Critter Corner -
DID YOU KNOW:
Short-eared owls are secretive, ground-dwelling owls that often
spend winter in our area. They live in open country such
and prairies. Small feather tufts on top of the head give
this bird its name, though the tufts are not the ears. The
ears are on each side and toward the face and hidden by
feathers. These owls are about the size of a crow and have
a 3 1/2 foot wing span. Because birds have hollow bones
and light-weight feathers, these owls weigh less than 1 pound.
Short-eared owls prefer mice for dinner. Rats, shrews,
birds, rabbits and bats are also hunted. These owls hunt
day and night, flying in circles and gliding low to the ground.
They locate their prey with excellent eyesight and hearing.
Owls are considered to have the finest hearing of any animal.
Short-eared owls nest on the ground. They make a small
depression and line it with grasses and feathers, then the
mother lays four to seven eggs. As Mom incubates the eggs,
Dad helps guard the nest and brings her food. The eggs
hatch in about three weeks, and the young are flying about a
month later. Both parents guard and feed the owlets and
teach them to hunt.
owls breed and raise their young in the northern United States
and Canada. Open country is essential for their survival.
Many of these owls spend winters in Missouri and Kansas because
the weather is not as severe as it is in the north.
These brown-streaked owls are well camouflaged in their grassy
habitat. If danger comes too close, they will fly to
escape. Owls snap their beaks together and hiss when
threatened. They are very protective of their babies.
A parent will try to lead the predator away by acting as if it
has a broken wing. If this doesn't work, Mom and Dad can
attack with strong beaks and sharp talons -- they are fierce
One of the short-eared owl's calls sounds like the barking
of a small dog.
Like most hunting birds, the females are larger than the
To learn more about
(Photo credits: Large picture
of short-eared owl, Missouri Department of Conservation;
Short-eared owl in grass, US Fish and Wildlife Agency;
Short-eared owl nest, National Parks Service; Short-eared owl on