Bird Families

A volunteer from Tomilino nurses a wounded owl that a postman rescued from a flock of crows


It looks like a long-eared owl, but the color is yellower, the back is buffy-brown, the bottom is lighter, there is no cross-hatching on the side feathers. "Ears" are barely visible (up to 18-20 mm). In flight, dark spots are visible on the fold of the wing.


The inhabitant of various landscapes - from tundra to deserts and mountains. Inhabits open areas everywhere (floodplain meadows, swamps, lake shores, sometimes crops or dry steppes). A resident, nomadic or migratory bird. Common. It nests on the ground, making a nest of dry grass. Clutch in late April - May, consists of 4-6, and in years with an abundance of sptsi up to 8-10 white eggs.

It feeds almost exclusively on murine rodents. The hunt begins in the first twilight, and often flies during the day. He does not sit on trees, spends the day on the ground. The flight is unhurried, swaying, above the ground itself. In the spring you can observe the current flight, when the peculiar cry "boo-boo-boo-boo" is interspersed with the flapping of wings. One of the most useful birds to be protected.

It differs from the long-eared owl in short "ears" and the absence of cross-hatching on the sides, from the tawny owl - in yellow eyes and a black beak.

Recommended and cited literature

Guides-determinants of the geographer and traveler V.E. Flint, R.L. Boehme, Yu.V. Kostin, A.A. Kuznetsov. Birds of the USSR. Publishing house "Mysl" Moscow, edited by prof. G.P. Dementieva. Image:


Most of the diet of this bird is small rodents (mice, voles, lemmings, rats, hamsters and muskrats), rabbits, shrews, bats, birds (waders, terns, small gulls, larks and blackbirds), insects (grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars ) and (sometimes) fish.

Hunts short-eared owl at any time of the day, hovering low over open space. It usually attacks prey from flight or from ambush and carries it in its claws. Short-eared Owls are monogamous and form permanent pairs. The male attracts the female to his site with beautiful pirouettes in the air. Sometimes both birds participate in mating flights: they chase each other, claw or fight jokingly.

Mating season

In the wild, the life of an owl is 13 years. The romantic season of these birds is observed at a time when spring is in its early phase. Initially, the owl is engaged in the construction of a nest intended for the summer period. She prefers to repair last year's nest, and she will build a new one only in exceptional cases.
There are times when owls stay for wintering, finding themselves from a seasonal migration, then they can mate even in winter. The need for flights and the mating time of the short-eared owl entirely depends on the amount of food within its range. Males reach sexual maturity at the age of one year. To attract the female, he makes bizarre sounds, reminiscent of a drum roll, and whirls in the air, doing dizzying pirouettes. He presents to the female he likes a gift in the form of a delicacy, and he performs his dance only for her. The female flirts for a long time, but still concedes. Intercourse continues for 4 seconds.

Upland owl - description, habitat, interesting facts


These birds build their nests on the ground, often in thickets of dense tall vegetation, and the same site can be used for several years.

Before starting the construction of the nest, the female tramples the place she likes, and then the construction itself begins. The nest (20-50 cm in diameter) of the short-eared owl consists of sticks, stalks of grass, rotting vegetation and feathers (which the female pulls out of her breast), in the center a recess is trampled down for eggs. In dense grass, a tunnel is usually made to the nest. The clutch can contain from 4 to 14 white eggs, which are laid at intervals of two days. In the south, short-eared owls can lay two clutches per year. Only the female incubates the eggs, and the male feeds her.

Both parents actively protect the nest from predators - they dive at the intruder, snapping their beaks threateningly. If a man approaches the nest, the female usually begins to restlessly circle over his head, and sometimes dives at the man and hits him with its paws. Clutch incubation takes from 21 to 37 days in different parts of the range. Chicks leave the nest at 12-18 days of age and are supplemented by their parents outside the nest. At this age, the chicks hide nearby and periodically give a voice for the parents to feed them. At the age of one month, the chicks can already flip from place to place, in 2 weeks they begin to fly and try to hunt on their own. Fully adult plumage grows in chicks by October of the first year of life.

Short-eared owl

Short-eared Owl is one of the most common members of the owl family. It is found even in the most remote Galapagos Islands and Hawaii, where it is revered by the locals as the personification of their great ancestor. In Russia, in the old days, the marsh owl was called the steppe owl, because it lives not only in swamps, although the latter are among its favorite habitats. This medium-sized bird of prey exterminates a huge number of mice and various rodents, for which it is considered one of the most useful owls.


This bird was first described by a Danish naturalist in the 60s. 18th century. The short-eared owl is in many ways similar to its long-eared relative, only its “ears” are very small and almost invisible, consisting of only a few feathers. For this reason, it is sometimes ranked among the varieties of long-eared owls, but it is often distinguished as a separate species, which has only a fraction of similarity with a close relative. Black spots around the eyes of yellow color are one of the characteristic differences between the short-eared owl and the eared owl.

In size, it is slightly smaller than a crow, but in flight due to its long wings (in span they reach a meter) it seems to be a larger bird. Short-eared owls weigh 300-500 g. Their body length is within 30-36 cm. The color of its upper part is rust-colored with prevailing dark and light longitudinal spots. The lower part of the body of this owl is lighter with dark brown spots.

On the back and wings there are characteristic yellowish streaks, and on the legs there is a dense light plumage. On the tail, several wide transverse stripes of dark color are noticeable, while in the long-eared owl there are many small ones.

Short-eared owl is not one of the especially talkative owls, but when protected it can make barking sounds and crackle. Males can also issue a call-out call. To distract the enemy from the nest, it can simulate an injured wing and screech loudly.


Short-eared owls live in various parts of the world, with the exception of Australia and Antarctica. The largest populations are found in northern Europe, in the vastness of the North American continent and in Asia.

They are also common in Latin America (mainly in the south and center). In Central Europe, as well as in the African expanses, these birds can be seen only during their migration season. In Russia, they are found everywhere, except for the circumpolar regions. The total population in the world is 2-3 million individuals.

Short-eared owls living in the tropics and subtropics are usually settled, while those that live in subarctic regions migrate to warmer places in the fall. These birds usually create nests not on trees and shrubs, but in depressions of the soil under bushes or near old snags, covering the hole with moss.

Their typical nesting area is humid lowlands, usually along the edges of swamps. But they also settle in the mountains. In particular, in the Andes, short-eared owls live in wet alpine meadows at an altitude of 4000 m. These birds are also attracted by steppes, savannahs, tundra, sea coasts and wet meadows.

The main criterion for choosing their habitats is open space with low vegetation. In dense forests, short-eared owls never settle, but they can often be seen on pastures in the vastness of Europe.


These owls are most active at dusk, and during the mating season and when rearing their offspring, they can hunt even during the day. But they do not belong to the number of midnight birds, preferring to shelter in nesting places for rest in the darkest part of the day, as well as in the hot afternoon. The exception is short-eared owls living near the sea or on the ocean coast, where gulls and skuas predominate. They hunt exclusively at night.

Short-eared owls are very fond of sunbathing, stretching upright and drooping their wings, looking directly at the sun. They also feel good in the rain.

Although short-eared owls, like most representatives of the owl family, do not typically live in flocks, in cold weather they can huddle in very large flocks (up to two hundred individuals) for the night. But at the same time they hunt exclusively alone and in search of food they can fly at a distance of 50-120 km from their home. Short-eared owls migrate in small groups, often covering a distance of up to 4000 km during migrations.

Food extraction

Camouflage plumage allows short-eared owls to easily merge with the ground or with trees, where they await their likely prey. These birds often ambush, spread out on the ground, or look out for food from a tree branch.

They can look out for their prey in flight, flying 2-5 m from the ground. Acute hearing easily allows them to track down the victim, in order to then quickly descend and plunge into it with sharp claws. These birds are able to detect rodents even under 10 cm thick snow. In bad weather, they look out for prey exclusively from the shelter.

The main food of the short-eared owl is various rodents, mainly wood mice, lemmings and voles. But she can also hunt small wading and water birds, and sometimes even fish, especially when there is not enough rodent diet.

The hunting "grounds" of short-eared owls can cover from 3 to 10 km. They constantly fly around it, loudly flapping their wings to mark their right to hunt in this area. Having met a relative in the controlled territories, these birds can arrange a noble brawl in order to teach a lesson to the impudent person.

The daily food allowance for these birds is 80 grams, which is equivalent to 2-3 voles. But chicks are more voracious and require a daily diet of 2 or 3 times more than 20% of their own weight.

A well-fed short-eared owl always makes provisions, hiding it near its nest. Curiously, these birds remember all their "pantries" well, which allows them to easily find the necessary supplies in cold weather or in case of an unsuccessful hunt and the need to feed hungry chicks.


The mating season for short-eared owls, depending on nesting sites, can last from March to June. They form monogamous couples only for one season. During this period, males most actively defend their homes from all kinds of encroachments by competitors.

In order to attract a female, they use all their charm, demonstrating the beauty of their wings in graceful air "dances", circling up and down in a spiral and making a kind of drum roll. If the female drew attention to these "flirting", a kind of "wedding present" is used, when the male presents her with the hunted rodent.

The received gift serves as the final step in the creation of a new feathered family. Despite the lengthy courtship ritual, the mating of these birds itself lasts only 4 seconds!

The place for the nest is always chosen and equipped exclusively by the female. She lays 3-6 spherical eggs at intervals of two days, but begins to incubate them after the first laid egg.

After 25-27 days, owlets covered with white down are born. Initially, they are fed exclusively by the female, for which the male makes provisions in advance near the nest.

An interesting fact! Short-eared owl chicks even a week before their hatching from an egg can emit very loud inviting shouts.

Newborns eat the pieces of rodents that the mother provides them, but by the end of the second week of their existence, they eat the prey whole. From the third week of life, they already leave the nest and become the most voracious, often eating their weak counterparts. At this time, both parents get food for them.

By the end of the first month of life, the chicks already begin to try to fly, and after another week they fully master this art, becoming independent. By the end of the second month of life, they leave the parental nest, often flying away from it for several hundred kilometers to start an independent life there.

Threats to the species

The main enemies of short-eared owls are wild boars, which can destroy their nests, and pine martens, which destroy their offspring and hunt adult birds. These owls often easily become the prey of martens, since they allow a predator to come close to themselves and only at the last moment they rapidly fly upward, which is not always possible with the special agility of a hungry predator. Golden eagles can hunt adult birds.

On average, short-eared owls can live up to 13 years in the wild. The terrestrial existence of these birds is the main reason for the constant decline in their numbers. In a number of countries around the world, they are taken under protection, and in Russia they are listed in the Red Book.

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