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The Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)

Updated: Nov 12, 2023

Date: March 11th, 2023

Location: China, Beijing, Shunyi District, Wenyu River


This short-eared owl is one of the most popular birds in Beijing. Due to its lovely appearance and easiness to observe, birdwatchers circle its habitat every dusk to take their ideal pictures. The following picture is of its habitat and the throng encompassing it.


Description: The short-eared owl is a type of owl that belongs to the family Strigidae. It is one of the world's most widely distributed owls and usually habits in grasslands. The short-eared owl can be found in all continents except for Antarctica and Australia. The short-eared owl is partially migratory since they migrate southward in winter from the northern regions of its range. The short-eared owl tends to relocate to areas that possess higher rodent populations since it feeds on rodents. It could be found in tundras, prairies, marshes, and dunes as long as the region supports a high number of rodents.


Appearance: The short-eared owl has yellow eyes that are surrounded by black facial disks, and its beak is dark and hooked with a mottled brown plumage with streaks of white and black, which helps it blend into its grassland and marshland habitats. The feathers on its wings are long and slender, enabling it to fly buoyantly with agility.


Behavior: Unlike most owls, which are nocturnal, the short-eared owl is crepuscular, meaning it is most active during the dawn and dusk hours. It is also a ground-nesting bird, and it can be seen hunting rodents and small mammals in open fields, grasslands, and marshes. In flight, it has a distinctive buoyant and erratic flight pattern, and it will often hover over one spot while searching for prey.

The habitat of the short-eared owl in my photographs is an open grassland teeming with voles, the owl's preferred snack. This choice habitat reflects its crepuscular nature, as it emerges from its daytime hideout to hunt for voles in the grass at twilight. Surprisingly, the short-eared owl I observed showed little fear of humans, allowing for close encounters with enthralled onlookers.


Notably, these captivating owls have brought attention to a pressing social issue - the disturbing practice of affixing food to trees with screws to capture the scene of owls hunting. This cruel act has dire consequences, as birds may ingest the screws while prey endure needless suffering before becoming a meal. The short-eared owl's experience serves as a poignant reminder, raising crucial awareness about this unethical practice.

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