The Long Eared Owl of the Pacific Northwest
The Long Eared Owl is a medium sized owl, they have long feather tufts on their heads from which they get their name. These owls are not often seen, they hunt the deep forests at night.
They are sometimes confused with the great horned owls but they are much smaller and have more light brown on the head and chest.
Long eared owls can also be confused with short eared owls also, their closest relatives on the coast. Both species are of similar build and size. However, there is a simple way to tell them apart, long eared owls are birds that hunt the deep forest, short eared owls live and hunt in the open fields and meadows.
Long eared Owls hunt mainly by ranging over open fields and natural meadows. They rarely hunt in forest where they roost and nest. They hunt from dusk to dawn, flying a meter or 2 above the ground, with the head canted to one side listening for prey. When they see a meal, they pounce upon it quickly, pinning the prey to the ground with its powerful talons. Smaller prey is usually swallowed immediately, or carried away in the bill. Larger prey is carried in the talons. Long eared Owls feed primarily on mammals. On the coast, it seems that deer mice and rabbits are its main prey.
Long eared owls do not build their own nests but instead will look for nests built by the cooper’s hawk or crows to raise their young in. Long Eared Owls have an interesting nesting habit, instead of building their own nests, these owls will reuse the nests of crows and ravens. In the winter, the Long Eared Owls often roost communally in groups of up to 20. In the early spring, before the trees get their leaves, is a good time to look for their nests.
They are a rare and delightful sight on the coast, so if you see one here, consider yourself very lucky.