Long-Eared Owl

The key defining feature of this owl is evident in their name; they have long ear tufts that stick straight up. These owls are medium-sized with a wingspan reaching roughly 90 centimetres (36 in) across. Their feathers form a thick white ‘X’ between the eyes, and are bordered by vertical black lines running over the eyes, complete over an orange facial disc. The wings are mottled grey, brown, and black, with fine barring on the outer wing edges and the chest has dark vertical bars.

An interesting feature is the asymmetrical positioning of their ear openings; the left being higher up in order to enhance their hearing. Hence, the Long-eared Owl hunts mostly using sound. The facial disc and ear positioning are common characteristics of a nocturnal-hunting owl.

Photo by gainesp2003

Their voice is a series of low-pitched hoots which can be heard up to one kilometre away, but they are also capable of delivering quiet moans and alarming barks. When aiming to attract a mate, Long-eared Owls will perform a clapping of their wings in mid air, a sound resembling that of a cracked whip.

Found mostly in eastern British Columbia, these owls also call the southwest portion of the province their home; though they aren’t always easy to find, they are present here in Delta. Long-eared Owls do not build their own nests, they simply move in to an existing one, often those constructed by hawks or crows. Dense vegetation is used in the day for nesting and roosting, but come nightfall, these owls turn to open grasslands (including Grassland Set-asides) to do their hunting, so they may be seen in forests bordering open land.

Their food of choice: small mammals with the odd bird thrown in for dessert – swallowed whole. They have been known to capture their prey in total darkness and do so with a low-lying swoop at sound of a meal.

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