The Short-eared Owl is one of the most widely distributed owl species in the world. However, this species is irregular throughout its range and has declined by 65% since 1970 in North America.
In North America, its breeding range covers most of Canada and the northern United States. Its habitat is large open areas such as marshes, grasslands, savannahs, old pastures, and tundra. It chooses breeding sites based on the abundance of preys, which are small mammals, and lays its eggs on the ground, on dry vegetated ridges or mounds.
The Short-eared Owl is considered as a partial migrant. In the north part of its range, the species is highly migratory. However, it can be present year-round at mid-latitudes. During winter, Short-eared Owls generally move southward. They are considered a regular resident throughout the United States and some individuals will winter the southern Canada. The habitat during migration and while wintering is similar to the one used when breeding, but it can choose smaller open areas if preys are plentiful.
The major threat for this species is habitat loss and fragmentation due to human activities. It is also sensitive to human disturbance at the nest. As a ground nester, the Short-eared Owl is vulnerable to nest predation, which is typically higher in fragmented habitat.
Primary Habitats:Breeding: Arctic tundra, Temperate grasslands, Agricultural
Wintering: Temperate grasslands, Coastal saltmarshes, Agricultural
Breeding: Urbanization, Agricultural conversion
Wintering: Urbanization, Agricultural conversion
Population Loss Since 1970: -65%
Urgency/Half Life: Unknown
Global Conservation Status: IUCN 2019-1 – Least Concern
U.S. Conservation Status: N/A
Canadian Conservation Status: Special Concern (SARA)
Birds of Conservation Concern:
|Region||Area Importance||Long-term Population Change||Half-Life|
|Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture (W)||AI=5||***||***|
|Gulf Coast Joint Venture (W)||AI=4||***||***|
|Lower Mississippi Valley Joint Venture (W)||AI=4||***||***|
|Prairie Pothole Joint Venture (W)||AI=4||***||***|
|Upper Mississippi River/Great Lakes Region Joint Venture (W)||AI=5||***||***|
*** indicates insufficient or unreliable data to calculate a regional long-term change or half-life estimate.
(W) indicates the region supports a significant wintering population of this species.
AI=# indicates the area importance for wintering populations on a scale from 1 to 5.
Participate in the Western Asio Flammeus Landscape Study (WAfLS)
Collaborative Short-eared Owl Monitoring Project (U.S.)
Participate in the Nocturnal Owl Survey (Canada)
Species Conservation Plans:
Management Plan for the Short-Eared Owl (Asio Flammeus) in Canada 2018
Schmelzer, I. 2005. A management plan for the Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus flammeus) in Newfoundland and Labrador. Wildlife Division, Department of Environment and Conservation. Corner Brook, NL.
Key Species References:
Peer Reviewed Papers:
Arroyo, B.E. and V. Bretagnolle. 1999. Breeding biology of the Short-eared Owl (Asio
flammeus) in agricultural habitats of southwestern France. Journal of Raptor
Research 33: 287-294.
Clayton, K.M. 2000. Status of the Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) in Alberta. Alberta
Wildlife Status Report, No. 28. Alberta Conservation Association, Edmonton,
Birds of North America (BNA) Species Account