The short-eared owl is a widespread species, found in many countries.



Some short-eared owls seen in Britain in the winter are migrants from Scandinavia, and these return to their northern homes in April at the beginning of the breeding season. Many short-eared owls breed in Britain, although they may spend the winter in Ireland, France, Spain and other parts of Southern Europe.

During the breeding season, the male performs a courtship display flight over the breeding territory, singing a special song to attract a female.

The nest is usually just a hollow on the ground, scraped out by both birds, and lined with dry grass, heather or brambles. Normally, four to seven eggs are laid, but when rodent numbers are high, there may be as many as fourteen. The eggs are laid at two day intervals, and the female incubates from the first one. Each egg takes 24 - 28 days to hatch. During incubation, the female relys on her mate to supply her with food.

To begin with, the owlets' eyes are closed and they are covered in white down, which soon changes to a light brown colour. Both parents feed the brood and defend them fiercely from intruders. From two weeks onwards, the youngsters begin to explore their surroundings, hiding in nearby undergrowth. They do not leave the nest area until they can fly well, at about three weeks old.

If the food supply is good, a pair of owls may manage to rear two broods. The owlets wil be ready to breed by the following spring.

Read More: Short-Eared Owls and Humans

Related Resources