Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Long Eared Owl

Long-eared OwlLong eared owl
Asio otus

Britain’s rarest owl.

A long, thin owl, no larger than a wood pigeon.  Long feathers on the head are often raised giving the owl the appearance of having large ears, the genuine ears are hidden.  The long eared owl is buff brown in colour with darker streaks (an imitation of tree bark) with large orange eyes set in a clearly defined facial disc, wingspan 90-100cm. An uncommon but permanent resident in the South of England, found more commonly in northern England, more northerly birds migrate southwards in the winter (including birds in Europe which migrate to overwinter in the UK).

The long eared owl is truly nocturnal and prefers dense woodland, making it difficult to see in the wild. It is typically found roosting in conifer woodland, but commonly hunts by ranging over open clearings and fields. Activity begins at dusk and ends just before dawn. Old crow’s nests and squirrel dreys are commonly used as nests by this owl; long eared owls frequently nest in groups. The main prey of the long eared owl is mice, voles and rats.

They only call in February and March, when the Hawk and Owl Trust organise surveys every year.

There is a long eared owl Species Action Plan for Mendip and West Somerset Districts and one in draft for the Quantock Hills AONB area.