Long-eared Owl

The Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) is a medium-sized owl species known for its characteristic long ear tufts, despite these tufts not being actual ears. Adults typically measure between 13 to 16 inches in length and have a wingspan ranging from 35 to 40 inches. Their weight varies between 7 to 15 ounces, with females being slightly larger than males. Distinguishing features include their prominent orange facial disks outlined in black, yellow eyes, and mottled brown plumage that provides excellent camouflage against tree bark.

These owls are widespread across North America, Europe, and Asia. Long-eared Owls are migratory and tend to move to different habitats during seasonal changes, including during breeding and wintering periods. During the breeding season, they inhabit forests, woodlands, and mixed coniferous forests. However, they tend to shift to more open habitats such as grasslands, marshes, and agricultural fields during the winter months, often congregating in communal roosts.

Long-eared Owls are primarily nocturnal predators, preying on small mammals like voles, mice, and shrews. Occasionally, they also hunt small birds and insects. Their hunting style involves perching and scanning for prey before silently swooping down to catch it with their sharp talons. Despite their adaptability to various environments, these owls are generally secretive and elusive.

Their long ear tufts are used for communication and camouflage rather than hearing. They possess exceptional hearing abilities, aided by their facial disks that help funnel sound toward their ears, allowing them to detect prey movements even in near darkness. During the day, Long-eared Owls typically roost quietly in dense vegetation or within tree branches, relying on their cryptic plumage to remain hidden.

Conservation efforts often focus on preserving suitable habitats for Long-eared Owls, especially mature forests and undisturbed areas where they can find nesting sites and sufficient prey. Threats to their populations include habitat destruction, pesticides affecting their prey base, and collisions with vehicles or man-made structures. Protecting these habitats and raising awareness about the importance of maintaining ecosystems benefitting these owls is crucial for their continued survival.

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