File:Short-Eared Owl on Seedskadee NWR (23124063494).jpg

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Banding data show seasonal migrations of the short-eared owl, especially in the northern part of its range. A nomadic species, the short-eared owl responds to fluctuating small mammal populations, and is particularly responsive to vole populations. Because the short-eared owl moves in response to its food supply, it may remain to breed in atypical breeding habitat if small mammals are abundant.

The species feeds mainly on voles in North America. Other small mammals and some birds are also taken. The short-eared owl hunts both day and night, although winter hunting may occur primarily at dawn and dusk. It hunts while flying, and uses both auditory and visual cues in detecting prey. When prey is located, the bird may hover before striking.

On Seedskadee NWR, we have observed them using sagebrush, fenceposts, and other elevated perches to hunt from. Sagebrush and meadow voles, young cottontail rabbits, and several species of mice are the primary prey items available to them during the winter on Seedskadee NWR. The short-eared owl pictured in the photo was taking a break from hunting to do a little preening and stretching.

Photo: Short-eared owl on Seedskadee NWR Tom Koerner/USFWS

Source Short-Eared Owl on Seedskadee NWR
Author USFWS Mountain-Prairie


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