Long-eared Owl

Long-eared owl can be found over a wide range of woodland and scrub habitats in both upland and lowland areas. Ranging from isolated trees, hedgerows, small copses to large woods, they are generally found in coniferous woods/shelter belts in the upland areas of the UK.

Photo: Mike Price

Photo: Mike Price

As with other owl species the breeding population is thought to vary from year to year, being more successful in years when voles are more abundant. Long-eared owls are generally nocturnal and secretive which results in pairs often being overlooked. However the far carrying squeaking hunger calls of the young often betray nesting locations.

Specialises on small mammals with voles forming a significant part of their diet but will readily take other small mammal species and small avian prey.

Long-eared owl chick threat display

Long-eared owl chick threat display
Photo: M Davison

Nests are usually in trees, with a preference for conifer trees (upland) and hawthorn(lowland) but will occasionally nest on the ground. Eggs are normally laid in old nests of another bird (usually magpie or crow) but will readily take to artificial nests like wicker baskets.

Clutch sizes vary between 1-6 eggs, hatching around at 25-30 days and young normally fledging around 28-35 days.

Long-eared owl on post

Photo: Ian Fisher

The British population of Long-eared Owl is estimated to be 1100-3600 pairs 1988-1991, (Baker, H et al 2006). The species is listed as of “Green” conservation status. The BTO NRS only receives an average of 17 records annually.

Although Long-eared owls are notoriously difficult to monitor there are several studies undertaken within the NERF region.

The main threat to Long-eared owl appears to be competition for habitat with Tawny owls and predation from larger raptors. Breeding attempts are affected by prey availability and in poor vole years large numbers of adults do not breed and those that do breed produce smaller clutches.