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Breeding Birds: Long-eared Owl

November 10, 1989|Clipboard researched by Kathie Bozanich and Susan Davis Greene / Los Angeles Times; Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

LONG-EARED OWL (Asio otus)

Description: Slender with long, close-set ear tufts. Boldly streaked and barred on breast and belly; facial disk is rusty.

Habitat: Conifer and mixed conifer- deciduous forest, especially near water, parks, orchards and farm woodlands.

Diet: Mostly rodents; rarely amphibians, reptiles, fish and insects.

Displays: The courting male flies erratic and zigzags with deep, slow wingbeats, occasionally gliding and clapping wings together beneath his body.

Nest: Usually in abandoned nests (especially those of crow, also squirrel, hawk, magpie, heron, raven). Built of small sticks, inner bark strips and pine needles. Female selects the site.

Eggs: White, 1.6 inches long.

Natural history notes: This owl is a night hunter and is able to locate even faint sounds with remarkable accuracy. At night it flies over open fields and marshes, during the day it roosts in trees, close to the trunk.

Familiarity with the environment, especially such things as the heights of favorite perches above the ground, seems to be essential to the owl's ability to pounce on prey. Hearing helps replace the absence of sight, but intimate knowledge of the habitat completes the job.

Is more gregarious in winter; flocks may roost together. Generally a silent bird, except during breeding season. His common call is one or more long hooo's.

Breeding bird atlas: To report bird breeding activity in your neighborhood, or to get information on the breeding bird atlas (now in its fifth and final year), call Sea and Sage Audubon Society member Nancy Kenyon, (714) 786-3160.

Sources: Sea and Sage Audubon Society; "The Birder's Handbook," Ehrlich, Dobkin and Wheye, Fireside Books (1988); "Field Guide to the Birds of North America," National Geographic Society (1987); "Birds of Southern California: Status and Distribution," Garrett and Dunn, Los Angeles Audubon Society (1981).

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