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Long-eared Owl, Peter Candido
Photo © Peter Candido

Photo: Peter Candido
Breeding evidence - Long-eared Owl
Breeding evidence

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Long-eared Owl
Asio otus

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Elevation range:
6 - 577 m
Conserv. status:
Not at risk
Global importance
of B.C. population:
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
12 4 27 0
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
BBS trends are not available for this species

Mean abundance by region

Bird Conservation Regions [plot]
NW Interior ForestBoreal Taiga PlainsGreat BasinNorthern RockiesN. Pacific Rainforest
Ecoprovinces [plot]
N. Boreal Mountains Taiga Plains Boreal Plains Georgia Depression Sub-Boreal Interior
S. Interior Mountains Central Interior Southern Interior S. Alaska Mountains Coast & Mountains

Mean abundance by habitat [plot]

Boreal Altai Fescue AlpineBoreal White and Black SpruceBunchgrassCoastal Douglas-fir
Coastal Mountain-heather AlpineCoastal Western HemlockEngelmann Spruce -- Subalpine FirInterior Cedar -- Hemlock
Interior Douglas-firInterior Mountain-heather AlpineMontane SpruceMountain Hemlock
Ponderosa PineSpruce -- Willow -- BirchSub-Boreal Pine -- SpruceSub-Boreal Spruce

Characteristics and Range Although it is fairly common in some areas of southern British Columbia, the Long-eared Owl is not often seen because of its nocturnal habits, highly cryptic coloration, and penchant for roosting in very dense vegetation. Its long "ear" tufts help break up its silhouette so that it blends in with its twiggy hideaways. Birders who venture out at night in the spring might hear the hollow single hoots of males, or perhaps the loud "Smack!" of a territorial wing-clap overhead. Long-eared Owls are found in temperate forests and woodlands around the Northern Hemisphere, with isolated populations in Africa, the Canary Islands and the Azores. In North America they breed in the western cordillera (generally east of the coast ranges) from northern British Columbia south to the Mexican border, and across the southern Boreal Forest and northern Great Plains to the Great Lakes and east to the Atlantic Coast.

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat In British Columbia the Long-eared Owl breeds in the interior from the Boreal Plains and Sub-Boreal Interior ecoprovinces south. There was one report of possible breeding from the Georgia Depression ecoprovince in the Squamish Valley. The Atlas indicates a possible expansion of the species' range in British Columbia, with a cluster of confirmed breeding records in the Boreal Plains, something not shown in The Birds of British Columbia when published in 1990. Data are insufficient to develop a Probability of Observation model or calculate abundance, but Long-eared Owls are likely much more abundant in the southern parts of British Columbia than in the central and northern regions.

Long-eared Owls forage over grasslands, meadows, pastures and marshes at low to moderate elevations, but roost and nest in thickets, copses and adjacent forest patches (Marks et al. 1994). Nests are almost always old nests of crows, magpies or hawks. Small mammals, especially voles (Microtus species), make up the bulk of prey items, with some small birds taken as well (Hooper and Nyhof 1986).

Conservation and Recommendations Christmas Bird Count and migration monitoring data suggest a moderate decline in Long-eared Owl populations in Canada; there are no specific trend data for British Columbia (Environment Canada 2011). Habitat loss and degradation, particularly grassland and meadow foraging areas and riparian woodlands for nesting and roosting, is considered the most likely cause for these declines (Marks et al. 1994).

Richard J. Cannings

Recommended citation: Cannings, R.J. 2015. Long-eared Owl in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. [14 Jul 2024]

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