Sunday, February 3, 2013

Long-eared Owl

Long-eared Owls breed across much of northern North America, where they inhabit "open and sparesely forested habitats" (Marks et al. 1994). They nest in trees and use other species' abandoned nests. Less frequently they nest in tree cavities or on the ground. They can be difficult to locate, and thus their winter range is less precisely known, with some owls being resident and others wandering south into Mexico. Populations of these owls are known to fluctuate, depending on vole populations.

Although nesting in forested areas, Long-eared Owls hunt at night over open habitats. During the day they often roost communally, in flocks of two to 100. On my first weekend in South Dakota, I found a roost of a dozen at a state park near Aberdeen. Erika and I occasionally found Long-eared Owls in the conifers of our residential backyard in Aberdeen (although I never banded one). Another good place to look for this owl is in the cedar draws along the Missouri River. This adult and fledgling Long-eared Owl were in a nest in a small deciduous forest downstream from the Oahe Dam near Pierre, South Dakota.

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