Birda Logo
Species Guide
A photo of a Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl

Asio flammeus

The Short-eared Owl, Asio flammeus, is a medium-sized owl notable for its mottled tawny to brown plumage, barred tail and wings, and a striking facial appearance accentuated by yellow-orange eyes encircled by black, giving the impression of a mask. This species exhibits a floppy flight pattern due to irregular wingbeats, often described as moth or bat-like.

Identification Tips

When observing the Short-eared Owl, look for its large eyes, big head, short neck, and broad wings. The bill is short, strong, hooked, and black. Females are slightly larger than males, and the species can be identified in flight by its broad white band along the rear edge of the wing and pale primary-patches. The upper breast is streaked significantly, and the bird's very short ear tufts are usually not visible unless in a defensive pose.


This owl favors open country and grasslands, often roosting under short, shady trees in grassland or desert habitats.


The Short-eared Owl has a vast range, found on all continents except Antarctica and Australia. It breeds in regions including North America, Europe, North Africa, and northern Asia, and is partially migratory, moving southward in winter from the northern parts of its range.


The Short-eared Owl is known to be diurnal and crepuscular, as well as nocturnal, with hunting often occurring just feet above the ground. It is monogamous and nests on the ground, with the male performing a conspicuous courtship display in flight. The species is known to lure predators away from its nest with a feigned injury display.

Song & Calls

The calls of the Short-eared Owl include a scratchy bark-like sound, raspy waowk, or a series of toot-toot-toot notes. On breeding grounds, a loud eeee-yerp can be heard, but the species is generally silent on wintering grounds.


Breeding season peaks in April, with nests concealed by low vegetation. Clutch size varies, with up to a dozen eggs laid in years of abundant prey. Incubation is primarily by the female, lasting 21–37 days, and offspring fledge at just over four weeks.

Similar Species

The Short-eared Owl can be confused with the Long-eared Owl, but differences include ear-tuft visibility, iris color (yellow in Short-eared, orange in Long-eared), and patterns around the eyes. The Short-eared Owl is generally paler and has different wing markings and tail bands.

Diet and Feeding

The diet mainly consists of rodents, particularly voles, but also includes other small mammals and occasionally birds and insects. The Short-eared Owl hunts by flying low over open fields before swooping down on prey.

Conservation Status

The IUCN lists the Short-eared Owl as a species of least concern, with an estimated global population of 1,200,000 to 2,100,000. However, it is noted to be declining in the southern portion of its United States range and is listed as endangered in New Mexico.

Short-eared Owl Sounds

Recorded by: © 
App logo
Birda is a birdwatching app and community aimed at curious people who want to deepen their connection with nature.

Short-eared Owl Fun Facts

Did you know?
During migration Short-eared Owls are able to travel large distances over the sea.

Short-eared Owls on Birda


More Owls

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

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Aegolius acadicus
Birda Logo

Your birdwatching journey like never before

Connect with nature in minutes
Take a walk, look out of the window and log the birds that you see. Feel good about those little connections to nature.
Discover the joy of birding
Find new birding spots, see more birds, share and celebrate with a like-minded community of nature lovers.
Play your part in saving nature
Logging your birding sightings and sessions turns into positive action for our planet. Every sighting counts.

Birda Blog

What Our Birders Say
Mike T
Sense of Community
A great app, which is continually being improved. What really comes through is the passion of those behind the app. The sense of community is brilliant, so much help and support provided to new and/or in experienced birders.
A Friendly Place
I love using the bird app, I have a pretty good knowledge of birds. But I do have some gaps in it, so it’s nice to have a safe space to check on a sighting to confirm the species. It’s really enjoyable and I love the badges you can collect. It’s like a real life Pokémon go.
Bryan C
Clean and easy to use
Really enjoying this app, it's clean and easy to use. I love the ease of being able to add those one-off birds without starting a whole checklist. I also like the social aspect, like the parts of my Facebook I like, without the ads and junk, just birds. Can't wait to see it become more populated.
Very Wholesome App
Joined this app with a new interest in watching birds to help me find out what I was spotting. The community is very active in helping identify birds which is great and everyone is very kind so it’s just a nice wholesome community. I would definitely recommend this for any bird spotter 😄
Really useful
Downloaded to give it a try, everything worked perfectly, recorded my first bird watching walk. Very impressed. Have already recommended to friends!
Really great app
It’s easy to use and it’s fun to log the birds you notice on a walk or just in your garden. There’s a option to record the birds you see in a session which is really nice. Good excuse to stop for a while and just watch birds. I am also enjoying the information part where you can find out fact about birds from all over the world.
Patricia L
Very encouraging birding app
Easy to use, fun to see progress and encouraging to receive feedback from other users.
Learning Birding with Birda
I’m relatively new to birding as a hobby, and Birda is a great way to keep track off all the species I see. I’m still working on my ID skills, but the app is great for figuring out potential species, and the online community is so friendly and helpful. Definitely recommend Birda to both early and serious birders! 🐦
Carl B
Helped me to identify more birds
Love this app and has helped me to identify more birds. The challenges and badges are great for keeping the motivation going to get out and keep birding.
Jane N
A great app
Enjoying it immensely and finding it useful too. Recording the different birds and counting them is showing me how the present climate is affecting them all. I've trebled the numbers by planting native hedging. A great app.
As featured in
Birda Logo
AboutPressAmbassadorsAffiliatesInfluencersCareersPrivacyTerms & Conditions
An app for birdwatchers
Connect with us
Copyright © 2024 Chirp Birding. All rights reserved.