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Animal Detail ViewՄանրամասն` նրանց մասին

28.02.2012

Long-eared Owl (Asio otus)


Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family: Strigidae
Genus: Asio
Species: Asio otus

Description

The Long-eared Owl is a mid-sized owl, which is closely relative to the Short-eared Owl. Both species belong to the genus Asio, whose members are known for their characteristic feather tufts on their head, which resembles mammalian ears. Though the tufts of Long-eared Owls are quite long and remarkable they aren't always visible. Most of the time the owl lays the tufts back on its head. Only if it is excited it sets them up. It is a slender owl which achieves a body length up to 40 centimeter and a weight up to 400 gram depending on their gender: Normally females are larger than the male birds. The rounded wings, with a span between 90 ans 100 centimeter, are so long that they are crossed when the owl is perched. The tail is short. Typical of owls is the characteristic round face with forward-facing eyes. The big eyes of Long-eared owls are yellow and their bill is black. Their sensitive ears are asymmetrically placed, whereas the size and the form are the same. This structure provides owls their unique sense of hearing. The feathers are brown-gray or brown-yellow colored and vertical streaked. Pale patches on the face resemble white eyebrows. In general are the females darker than males. Legs are completely covered with feathers as well as toes . Juveniles don't distinguish from adults, but their feathers are looser. The life expectancy of owls is quite low and only every second owl survives the first year after birth. The oldest wild owl, which was found, was approximately 28 years old. 

Habitat and Range

The species is found throughout northern hemisphere: It occupies North Amerika, Europe, the former Soviet Union and up to east Japan. There are also some isolated populations for example in North Afrika or on the Canary Islands. They live in areas with dense vegetation near grasslands or similar open landscapes as marshes and farmlands and sometimes even deserts. These woodless areas are important for their hunting activities whereas forests are save places to rest. They are found in regions up to 2000 meter above sea level.

Behaviour

Long-eared owls are active in dusk and in night. While they are breeding they form pairs and live separated from other owls, but if breeding season is over they often roost in larger groups up to 20 individuals. Some of the owls are sedentary, other migrate in winter and some are said to be nomadic, moving according to the availability of food. If they are migratory they often use the same winter habitats for several years. Vocalization is mostly used in breeding season. Owls are able to use a wide variety of sounds from melodic hoots to shrieks, whistles and warning signals. For defending their nest they also use displays directed at intruders.

Diet

The essential food of Long-eared Owls are voles and deer mice. If voles are rare it also hunts other small mammals, birds or even insects. Long-eared owls have a body that is perfectly built for hunting in the dark: Their low-light eyesight and their accurate sense of hearing give them the ability to hunt precisely and to be a great danger for their prey. Predominately they catch their prey in flight from the ground and kill them by biting their back and skull. Small mammals are eaten in a whole whereas larger animals are ripped in pieces. During incubation food is sometimes stored in the nest.

Reproduction

With help of displays and songs a male tries to attract a female owl. If it is successful they form a pair bond and stay together for the breeding season which takes place between February and the mid of July. Often the owl pair uses a nest in trees which are built from other birds. Rarely, they also nest on the ground or in holes in old tree stumps. The female lays usually 2 to 6 eggs in intervals of 2 days and brood between 25 and 30 days. The male protects the nest and brings food to the nest. Only the female bird rips the food in small pieces and feeds the young down-covered owls. When the juveniles are larger they are also feed by the male with whole mouses. They leave the nest approximately after 4 weeks and start to climb on the tree near the nest. One week later they are able to fly but further on they get food from their parents until an age of 11 weeks. Able to fly and to hunt the young owls leave the nest and search for a own territory. For that they Sometimes fly several 100 kilometers.

Conservation Status

The number of Long-eared Owls fluctuates heavily according to the range of mouses. The global population is estimated to count 1 to 5 Million individuals. Although the number of owls seems to decrease because of habitat loss, the species is still widespread and numerous. Therefor, according to the Red List of IUCN the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Owls and humans

There are many contradictory views on owls in mythology and cultures! They are feared but also admired, are considered to be wise or foolish. In America different Indian tribes had a various imagination about the rule of owls: For Apaches Indians the owl stand for approaching death whereas, for example, other tribes saw this animal as a symbol of protection for brave warriors. Also in fables of Ancient Greece it was often a sign of wisdom and sometimes owls had power of prophecy. It was the symbol of goddess Athene, who stands for wisdom. In the Middle Ages in Europe owls, which in general are often seen in the dark, were associated with witchcraft and often were feared because of their silent fly through the dark, their mysterious appearance and spooky voice. However, owls are appreciated by many farmers because of their importance of controlling rodent populations. Therefor you can often find man-made nesting sites, which are built to support the settlement of owls in a certain area.

Short Facts

  • To hide themselves Long-eared Owls elongate their bodies and their ear tufts and compress their feathers to pretend being a tree limb
  • Owls have the most accurate sense of hearing of any tested animal.
  • Sometimes it seems to the spectator that an owl can turn its head one time around. In reality it can't turn it further than 270º.
  • The fact that not all young owls hatch at the same time cause privileged status of the oldest one, that is always fed in the first instance. If food is rare the oldest has the best chances to survive.


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