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A photo of a Long-eared Owl (Asio otus)
Long-eared Owl

Long-eared Owl

Asio otus

The Long-eared Owl (Asio otus), also known as the Northern Long-eared Owl, is a medium-sized owl with a widespread breeding range. This species is part of the typical owls family, Strigidae, which encompasses most living owl species. It is characterized by its slim, long-winged form and prominent ear tufts that are closer to the center of the head compared to other owl species. The Long-eared Owl exhibits a coloration that is generally ochraceous-tawny with a grayish or brownish wash and variable blackish vertical streaks.

Identification Tips

The Long-eared Owl can be identified by its erect ear tufts, yellowish-orange to orange eyes, and streaked plumage. It has a wingspan of 86 to 102 cm and is lighter and more slender-bodied than other medium-sized owls like the Barn Owl or Tawny Owl. Males and females exhibit reverse sexual dimorphism, with females being slightly larger.


This owl shows a preference for semi-open habitats, particularly woodland edges. It roosts and nests within dense stands of wood but prefers to hunt over open ground.


The Long-eared Owl breeds across Europe, the Palearctic, and North America. It is partially migratory, with some populations moving southward in winter.


The Long-eared Owl is nocturnal and known for its communal roosting behavior, often sharing roosts with multiple individuals. It is not strongly territorial and can be described as partially nomadic due to its erratic movements.

Song & Calls

The male's song is a deep whoop that can carry over long distances, while the female's call is weaker and higher-pitched. Both sexes may produce a variety of vocalizations, including hisses and bill snaps when threatened.


Long-eared Owls do not build their own nests but often use those built by other animals, particularly corvids. Breeding success is closely tied to prey populations and predation risks.

Similar Species

The Long-eared Owl can be confused with other owl species, but differences in size, coloration, and ear tuft placement can aid in identification. It is most similar to the Short-eared Owl but prefers more wooded habitats and has different flight and roosting behaviors.

Diet and Feeding

The Long-eared Owl is a specialized predator, focusing almost entirely on small rodents, especially voles. It may adapt to a diverse prey base under certain circumstances, such as prey population cycles or urbanization.

Conservation Status

The Long-eared Owl is considered a species of least concern by the IUCN due to its broad range and large numbers. However, declines have been detected in parts of its range, often due to habitat loss and human persecution.

Long-eared Owl Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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Long-eared Owl Fun Facts

Did you know?
A male Long-eared Owl's hoot can be heard up to a kilometer away.

Long-eared Owls on Birda


More Owls

A photo of a Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Aegolius acadicus
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