The Long-eared Owl, as the name implies, has long dark ear tufts, which are longer than those of the Great Horned Owl relative to the head size. However the long-eared owl is smaller, at about 40 cm (16 in.) long, as compared to 60 cm (24 in.) for the great horned owl. Another distinction between the two species is that in the long-eared owl, the plumage is vertically streaked brown, whereas for the great horned owl the plumage is horizontally streaked brown, especially on the breast and abdomen. Both species have a facial disk and yellow eyes.

The name ‘Owl’ is an onomatopoeia for the bird’s call and comes from Cockney. The genus Latin name ‘Asio’ means a ‘kind of horned owl’, and the species name ‘otus’ is from Greek and, again, refers to an eared owl.

Long-eared owls inhabit forests, preferably coniferous, and do not build their own nests, but rather use stick nests built by other bird species. It will also human-built nests if available. Unusual for an owl, this species will roost in groups in the winter.

The long-eared owl diet is composed mainly of small rodents, but will also include small birds and reptiles.

Although the long-eared owl is known to breed on PEI and is a year-round resident, its occurrence on the island so far has been reported as rare for all seasons. This bird’s breeding range covers the southern part Canada, Europe and Asia, and its wintering range in North America includes a good part of the eastern half of the USA. It is a permanent resident in-between.

Long-eared Owl - California, USA - Feb. 23, 2013 - © Jitze Couperus
Long-eared Owl – California, USA – Feb. 23, 2013 – © Jitze Couperus