The short-eared owl is a bird of the open marsh, meadow and grasslands. Unlike many owls, the short-eared is diurnal and found hunting during the day. I observed a short-eared owl hunting at first light recently in a marsh near Corinne.
Antelope Island State Park is another good location for viewing short-eared owls. There has been an explosion of meadow voles and field mice with the wet spring. Short-eared owls are reaping the harvest. The photo depicts a short-eared owl with a meadow vole in its talons.
The short-eared population is declining in the southern portion of its range. It is listed as a species of special concern, threatened, or endangered in some states. Short-eared owls are common in the northern portion of their breeding range, but populations fluctuate greatly along with prey population cycles, as witnessed this spring.
When flying, the short-eared owl displays a large buff patch on the outer wing. It flies close to the ground in a familiar floppy flight. The short-eared hunts by sound, as well as sight.
The owls are 13 to 17 inches in length with a wingspan of 33 to 41 inches. They weigh only between 7 and 17 ounces.
Its call is a scratchy barking.
Bill Fenimore is owner of the Layton, Wild Bird Center, author of Backyard Birds of Utah, and a member of the Utah Wildlife Board.