Wintering Short-eared Owls

December 18, 2020 | Blog

By Carol Davit, MPF Executive Director

On December 8, MPF Technical Advisor Jeff Cantrell led an “MPF Short-eared Owl Investigation” at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Shawnee Trail Conservation Area in Barton County.

The short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) is one of the most widely distributed owls in the world. See its North American breeding, year-round, and wintering range here. In Missouri, these owls can be seen in the winter in suitable grassland habitat. Prairies and other grasslands in southwestern Missouri are some of the best places to spot them—especially at dawn and dusk—flying low or sitting on the ground, hunting for food.

Jeff and his group spotted four owls on Dec. 8, and on Dec. 12, Jeff led an encore trip to the same location, and the group saw nine owls. “Short-eared owl viewing is just one of many ways to enjoy MPF’s and other publicly accessible prairies in Missouri,” said Jeff. “The easiest way to observe the owls is to wait them out at twilight. We don’t want to continually flush them—as this would cause them to use up much-needed energy reserves—so we simply wait and let them come to us. They are amazing!”

Prairies are important habitat not just for breeding birds, but also birds that winter here, like short-eared owls. Learn more about short-eared owls here.

Photo: Missouri Department of Conservation

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