About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Long-eared Owl Fun Facts

The Long-eared Owl Asio otus actually has its ears located asymmetrically on the side of its heads, with the right ear being higher than the left ear. Each ear hears the same sound with a slight difference, creating a form of audible “depth perception” which can be used to track the location and movements of their prey precisely by sound alone.

The birds look similar to the Great Horned Owl but are smaller (13-16 inches), with dark, vertical streaking rather than horizontal barring on the upperparts. The long feather tufts that look like cat ears on top of the owl have little or nothing to do with hearing.

They are widespread but scarce throughout much of Michigan. They are most noticeable in the winter months when they roost together in groups of 10 to 20 birds in woodlots, hedgerows or isolated tree groves.

Long-eared owl males begin advertising for a mate as early as January with the use of songs and aerial displays to attract females. They breed between February and July, and nest in hollowed out tree stumps or old nests from crows or hawks.

The female incubates 2-6 eggs for about a month. The owlets leave the nest at 21 days but still can’t fly until they are about 35 days old. The male brings food for the female and chicks until the chicks become independent at about 10 to 11 weeks old.

Long-eared owls hunt almost exclusively at night and in open habitats for small mammals like mice, shrew, or baby rabbits. A lot of their prey is swallowed whole. Later they regurgitate “pellets” which consist of indigestible fur and bones of the prey.

If you spot an owl in the woods, look below its perching spot for mysterious small brown bundles can be picked apart to discover what they had for dinner.

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