WatchList Species Account for Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species

 

Photo: © Bill Hubick
Photo: © Bill Hubick

One of the world’s most widely-distributed species, the Short-eared Owl breeds in marshes, grasslands, and tundra throughout North America and Eurasia. In North America, it is distributed spottily in breeding throughout the northern U.S. and Canada from coast to coast. In winter it withdraws from the northern parts of its range and is found in grassland and open areas throughout much of the United States into central Mexico. Active both during the day and at night, it depends on small mammals such as Microtus voles; its local numbers and breeding success depend on this fluctuating food source.

 

Populations have declined considerably in the northeastern U.S., virtually eliminating it as a breeding species there. It is listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern in seven northeastern states. The general cause of its disappearance is loss of habitat due to agriculture, urban development, and coastal resort development. Along with other grassland birds, the species has benefited from reclaimed and replanted strip-mines. Maintaining grassland for gallinaceous birds and waterfowl also creates nesting habitat for the owl. However since suitable habitat within its range is often not occupied, factors other than habitat loss—notably predation and food availability—may be responsible for its decline.