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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Short-eared Owl -- Asio flammeus

RANGE: Breeds from northern Alaska and northern Yukon to northern Quebec and Labrador, south to central California, northern Nevada, Utah, Kansas, Missouri, northern Ohio, northern Virginia, and New Jersey. Winters generally in the breeding range from southern Canada south to Mexico.

STATUS: Locally common; population is declining across southern portions of its range.

HABITAT: Primarily inhabits marshland and open grasslands, but also tundra, open fields, forest clearings, sagelands, deserts, pastures, prairies, lower mountain slopes, canyons, arroyos, dunes, meadows, and other open habitats. In winter, prefers open areas with little or no snow.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Extensive open grasslands with an abundance of rodents.

NEST: Nests are sometimes in small loose colonies, placed in slight depressions on the ground, either in exposed situations or in grassy cover among clumps of weeds or grasses. Rarely, will nest in an excavated burrow.

FOOD: Preys primarily on small mammals, especially voles; also eats birds, bats, and large insects.

REFERENCES: Clark 1975, DeGraff et al. 1980, Heintzelman 1979, Johnsgard 1979, Karalus and Eckert 1974, Low and Mansell 1983, Tate and Tate 1982.

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