Credit Elizabeth Dack 1/10
Credit Jackie Dent 2/10
Credit Elizabeth Dack 3/10
Credit Brian Shreeve 4/10
At Yare marshes by Brian Shreeve 5/10
Credit Mark Ollett 6/10
Lower Yare valley by Nick Appleton 7/10
Bure Marsh Ludham by Tabs Taberham 8/10
Short-eared owl and barn owl by David Macfarlane 9/10
Short-eared owl by Elizabeth Dack 10/10

Short-eared Owl Asio flames

East Anglia once had a breeding population of short-eared owls which ranged from the north of East Anglia to the north shore of Kent as well as in the Brecks on the Norfolk/Suffolk borders.  Now unfortunately breeding short-eared owls are mainly in the north of England and Scotland. In Norfolk you can still see the short-eared owl as a migrant usually between October and March.

The short-eared owl its named after the two short feather tufts on top of its head which look like ears. Most of the time these tufts are not visible as they lay flat to the head. The birds real ears are hidden away on the side of the head covered in feathers.
The short-eared owl is a specialist predator of small mammals, with field voles forming approximately 90% of the prey taken. When hunting the short-eared owl will quarter an area of suitable habitat hunting on the wing and listening and looking for signs of prey in the grass below. The quartering flight will involve a mixture of flapping and gliding, with the bird sometimes hovering before dropping down on the unsuspecting small mammal or bird.

Short-eared owls are about the same size as a barn owl and are one of the most active British owls during daylight.

It is a relatively short-lived bird. The average longevity record for a wild short-eared owl is roughly 4 years.

Conservation status

The short-eared owl is of European conservation concern and hence is classified on the “Amber” list under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).

It is also protected under the Wildlife and Country Act 1981.

Related questions & advice

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Did you know? The old East Anglian name for the short-eared owl is “Mouse Hawk”.

Like other owls the short-eared has a high pH in its stomach meaning it has a reduced ability to digest bone and other hard parts of their prey. As a result these parts are ejected in pellets.

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