Friday, February 15, 2013

Short-eared Owl

I flushed this Short-eared Owl along the shore of Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge’s Mud Lake (in South Dakota). As the owl flew away, I noted the long wings that result in a bouncy, “butterfly-like” flight profile as seen in the second photo. Short-eared Owls hunt by day and in night. In North America, however, habitat loss has been attributed to declining numbers of this ground-nesting owl over the past several decades (Wiggins et al. 2006).
Short-eared Owls are widely distributed across the world. They even inhabit the Galapagos and Hawaii in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. In the United States, the species inhabits open country like grasslands and marshes. The owl’s numbers are controlled by vole and other mouse population dynamics—when voles are abundant, Short-eared Owls are often common. The last photo is of a bunch of tourists watching a Short-eared Owl in the Galapagos, where the owls hunt seabirds nesting in lava flows. (The relatively tame owl is in the lower right corner of the photograph).

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