Short-eared owl

┬ęDanny Green/2020VISION

Short-eared owl perched

┬ęTerry Whittaker/2020VISION

Short-eared owl

+ -
Scientific name: Asio flammeus
The short-eared owl, or 'Shortie', is an unusual owl because it prefers to be out and about in the daytime. It is most easily spotted in winter, when resident birds are joined by migrants. Look out for it over moorlands and saltmarshes.

Top facts


Length: 34-42cm
Wingspan: 1m
Weight: 330g
Average lifespan: est. 4-12 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).

When to see

January to December


Short-eared owls mainly hunt during the daytime, flying low over moorland, grassland and saltmarshes where they feed on field voles and small birds. About the same size as the barn owl, but with long wings, the short-eared owl breeds in North England and Scotland, but can be seen more widely in winter. They nest on the ground in scraped-out hollows lined with grass and downy feathers.

What to look for

The short-eared owl is mottled yellowy-brown above, paler underneath and has dark circles around its yellow eyes. Short 'ear tufts' provide its common name. The similar long-eared owl is darker with orange-red eyes and long ear tufts and is usually found near woodland.

Where to find

Nests on uplands in the north of the UK. Winters in the lowlands of central and southern England and Wales, particularly around the coast.

Did you know?

Some short-eared owls migrate here from Scandanavia, Russia and Iceland for the winter and can occasionally be seen flying in off the sea.