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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Short-eared Owl

Bird Sightings :  Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl

(Short-horned Owl, Day Owl, Hawk Owl, March Owl, Marsh Owl, Moor Owl, Mouse Hawk, Woodcock Owl, Sea Owl, Pilot Owl, Red Owl, Short-horned Howlet, Cat Owl, Fern Owl, Grey Hullet, Grey Yogle, Brown Yogle)

Asio flammeus

Gaelic: Comhachag chluasach


Photography © Andy L
Point - Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
October 7th, 2008


"I knew eventually our paths would cross !!! captured on point late this afternoon in a downpoor."


Our Short-eared Owl photographs

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl


  • Short-eared owl
  • Asio flammeus
  • Gaelic: Comhachag chluasach
  • WI: uncommon migrant breeder, scarce in winter
  • UK AMBER LIST. 1000-3500 breeding pairs, winter 5000-50,000 birds RSPB
  • WI: Uists: uncommon migrant breeder (10-99 breeding pairs), scarce in winter (Very small numbers each year). Lewis and Harris: scarce visitor (Very small numbers each year)
  • Breeds: Nests on ground. Changes areas seeking voles. Europe (inc WI), Scandinavia, Russia, Iceland, Asia, North & South America, Caribbean, Hawaii, Galápagos Islands
  • Winters: Heads south. Birds from Scandinavia, Russia, Iceland winter in UK (usually coasts) Also wanders seeking voles
  • Habitat: Breeding: Open county: grassy moorland, marshes, sand dunes. Winter: grassy marshes, grazings, coastal marshland (& nearby fields, moorland) Roosts communally
  • Diet: Mostly field voles, Other small mammals: mice, shrews, rats, young rabbits. Small birds. Large insects
  • Medium sized owl. (37-39cm, 13-17in) Wingspan (95-103cm, 38-44in). Stocky. Big head & short neck. Mottled brown, Upper-parts barred & streaked. Under-parts bold dark streaks. Barred tail and wings. Throat & upper-breast black-brown streaks. Small ear tufts (not visible in field). Pale facial disc. Black rings around pale yellow-orange large eyes. Female is darkest.
    Flight: Broad long wings. Irregular wingbeats (moth-like). Under-wings pale, blackish tips & dark mark half-way up. Quarters ground low then swoops to prey feet-first. Often hovers. Circles over breeding territory. (wing-clapping part of display flight)
    Often sits on posts, rarely in trees. Usual owl seen hunting in daylight.
  • Listen to a Short-eared Owl (RSPB site) (silent in winter)
  • Similar birds: Long-eared Owl



The eared owls have tufts of feathers that look like ears. In some species the tufts may not be visible. The Short-eared Owl has very short tufts which are not usually visible but it will display them when in a defensive pose.

The word flammeus is Latin for flaming. In flight the Short-eared Owl's large yellow -orange eyes are said to glow like the flames of a fire.



Short-eared Owl records in the Western Isles

Uists: uncommon migrant breeder (10-99 breeding pairs), scarce in winter (Very small numbers each year)

Lewis and Harris: scarce visitor (Very small numbers each year)

Source: Outer Hebrides Bird Report (2001)

On the chart below the darker the shade of blue the more abundant the Short-eared Owl is during a month or the more likely you are to see it.

























(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)



Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

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