Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus)

This short-eared owl was among a group of about 15 that spent the winter near Farmersville, Illinois.

The short-eared owl is especially equipped to hunt and survive on the prairie. It survived in that grassy landscape by hunting from a hover and building a nest on the ground, the only Illinois owl to do so.

Short-eared owls were probably among the most numerous of the owl species before settlement. Now, they are an Illinois state-endangered species. Very few pairs nest in Illinois today mostly due to habitat loss.

Groups are sometimes seen spending the winter in Illinois. They are active for a short time each day, usually at dusk and dawn. They can be identified by their fluttering, almost butterfly-like flight.

Restoration of large areas of prairie habitat can help the short-eared owl. Prairie Ridge State Natural Area in Jasper county is one of the few places in Illinois to host nesting short-eared owls. There, almost 2,000 acres of grass provide space for hunting, roosting and raising young.

An injured short-eared owl regains its strength at the IRC. Ground-dwelling birds like the short-eared owl often are brought to the IRC after they are hit by mowers and other machinery. Read about this owl's return to the wild.
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 Quick Facts about short-eared owls:
mostly voles.

Endangered in Illinois. Very few pairs nest in the state.

When Can We See Them?

Short-eared owls are active at dusk and dawn. Some groups have been seen spending the winter in Illinois.

Nesting Behavior:

On the ground in wet prairie among tall grasses and reeds.

They lay 4-8 eggs.

How do we find them?

Short-eared owls often roost with their counterpart, the northern harrier. If you see harriers, be alert for short-eared owls.