Asio otus or long-eared owl — a small bird belonging to the owl family. This species is characterized by rather long feather tufts on the sides of the head, they look like small ears. Owls of this breed have a monochromatic color. Long-eared owls settle in woodlands, small copses and city parks. Birds of this species belong to migratory birds; flights are made in groups of 10 or more individuals. Long-eared owls are quite difficult to meet, since owls do not fly during the daytime, they are nocturnal. They differ from other owls not only in feather «ears» but also in character and behavior.
Species origin and description
Long-eared owl Asio otus. Order of owls. Genus eared owls. View Long-eared owl. Owls have a rather ancient origin. At the beginning of the Cenozoic era in the Eocene, these birds already inhabited the ancient forests of America, as evidenced by the ancient fossils of these birds found by scientists. Many extinct birds belonged to modern genera. The barn owl lived during the Miocene, eagle owls have been known since the late Eocene.
Video: Long-eared owl
Ancient owls were very different from modern birds, they were not predators, and they had behavioral differences. Over the years of evolution, birds of this species have developed their own specific style in hunting. Owls do not chase their prey, as other birds do, but lie in wait for their prey and swiftly attack it. Today, owls are a well-separated group of birds in all respects. In a systematic sense, owls are brought together with goats, rickshaws and parrots.
Asio otus was first described by the Swedish naturalist and scientist Carl Linnaeus in 1758. This species has some features that distinguish eared owls from other representatives of this species. Long-eared owls have a pronounced facial disc, rather high feather tufts are noticeable on the bird's head, which are called «Ears». Owls of this species have narrow and stiff feathers and a beautiful «marble» color.
Appearance and features
Males and females of this species do not have special external differences. The bird's head is large and rounded. The iris of the eyes is yellow or orange. The facial disk of the bird has a border of dark feathers. Around the beak, the owl has stiff dark feathers, light in the chin area. On the forehead between the feather cannons are marble-colored feathers.
There are several rows of black feathers around the eyes. The ear tufts consist of three or five brown feathers, on the outside the feathers have a reddish tint. On the neck and back, the plumage is reddish, with brown spots. The spots do not merge into one pattern. About 4 black stripes are visible on the lower part of the bird's body. Flight feathers have 4 brown spots on the feather and on the inside.
Young birds have the same color as adults, only their feathers are softer. A brown spot stands out 7-10 centimeters from the fold of the wing. The wingspan of an adult owl is 87-100 cm. The bird reaches a length of 32-40 cm. In this species of birds, males are approximately 1–5% smaller than females. Outwardly, birds of different sexes do not differ much.
The wings of birds are long and rounded. Behind when the bird is sitting, the feathers overlap a little. The tail of owls of this species is quite long, rounded and consists of 12 tail feathers. Claws and beak are brown. The beak is sharp, rounded. The soles of the feet are grey. Long-eared owls live quite a long time, under normal conditions an owl can live up to 25 years.
Interesting fact: An owl changes several outfits during its life. An outfit of fluff is replaced by a mesoptile, and by the second year of life, permanent plumage begins to form. Owls molt every year.
Where does the long-eared owl live?
The habitat of the long-eared owl is quite extensive. These are Eurasia, Finland, Western Scandinavia. In the south it is Palestine, Iran, Pamir, the southern part of Altai. They often nest in the mountains of Nanypan and in eastern Tibet. Birds also live in Southern Arizona, Oklahoma, Virginia, Northern California, Scotland, North America.
Eared owls inhabit such islands as the Canary, British, Azores, Japanese, Sicilian Peninsula. They are found in large numbers in Armenia, they like to settle in the mountainous regions of the Tien Shan, where these birds like to spend the winter. In the mountains they can settle at an altitude of up to 2 thousand meters above sea level.
In Russia, birds of this species can be found almost throughout the country. Owls settle in tall forests in the Perm, Orenburg regions, Krasnoyarsk, Moscow, Tula, Lipetsk, Oryol, Kursk and other regions. It has also been noted that in St. Petersburg and its region, birds sometimes stay for the winter.
In addition, owls of this species live in the Caucasus, in Armenia, Uzbekistan, and Georgia. Long-eared owls are migratory birds. In the middle zone of central Russia, these birds arrive at the end of March & # 8212; April. In autumn in September, owls fly to warm countries for the winter. Owls nest in mixed forests, parks, thickets of bushes. They often occupy old nests of birds of prey.
What does the long-eared owl eat?
The diet includes:
- mice, voles and other rodents;
- small passerine birds (brambling, goldfinch, sparrow, bindweed);
- beetles (May, beetles, barbels, beetles – dung beetles, bears and others);
- small squirrels, rabbits;
- frogs and other amphibians.
In different regions, the diet can be very different, somewhere owls can eat only rodents, in others, on the contrary, birds eat more beetles and insects. Sometimes owls can attack even fairly large birds – partridges, pheasants, rooks. In the diet of owls, birds make up about 10%, more often birds feed on rodents, they can make up to 80% of the diet. Undigested food remnants in the form of bones, feathers and wool are regurgitated by the bird.
Depending on the biotype in which the owl lives and its noisiness, owl hunting occurs in different ways. In the forests, owls watch their prey on the branches of trees. The bird is located on branches 3-5 meters from the ground and tracks down its prey, choosing the time when the victim is distracted by something, the owl sharply attacks it. In open areas, owls use a search flight for hunting. The bird slowly circles above the ground and is looking for something to eat. Sometimes there is a stalking of prey from the ground. On calm, windless nights, owls mostly fly, at a height of about 3 meters above the field. If it rains and in windy weather the birds hunt from perches.
Character and lifestyle features
Owls are nocturnal birds. During the day, long-eared owls sleep peacefully sitting on branches, while trying to be invisible hiding in the foliage. At night they go hunting. During nesting, birds occupy nests at a distance of about 100 meters from each other. In the non-nesting period, the birds gather in small flocks of 5 to 60 individuals. During the day, such flocks can occupy thickets of bushes, or tall coniferous trees. In such flocks, birds feel safer and can rest easy. In the evening, the birds fly away to feed within half an hour after sunset. Feed more often alone.
Interesting fact: Long-eared owls have as many as three pairs of eyelids, one used during flight to protect the eyes from dust particles and midges, others for blinking, and still others for sleeping.
Long-eared owls are not afraid of humans, but can be quite aggressive if disturbed, especially during the nesting season. If you approach an owl, it begins to hiss and fluff its feathers, it can bite if it does not want to be touched. The birds are relatively calm, there are usually no skirmishes in the flock. Birds do not particularly protect their territory, they do not build nests, but settle in old nests of other birds.
Eared owls are migratory birds. They usually overwinter in the same places. Birds fly away for wintering at the end of August & # 8212; September. They return to their usual habitat at the end of March — April, depending on the climate, the dates may vary slightly.
Social structure and reproduction
The nesting period for long-eared owls begins in March-early April. During nesting, the birds behave in a special way, they emit a leisurely cry «goo-goo-goo» this scream is repeated every five seconds. With a cry, the birds call their partner for a mating flight, it is accompanied by the flapping of wings.
Interesting fact: Long-eared owls do not differ in homeliness, they do not make nests at all, but occupy the old nests of crows, magpies and rooks. Sometimes they can create masonry even on the ground among the grass. The nest is usually used for one season, only for breeding.
A bird of this species can lay from 3 to 9 eggs in one mating season. The female lays eggs at intervals of several days. The clutch is incubated and guarded by one female. During incubation, the female flies out of the nest at night 5-8 times a night in order to find food for herself. The female constantly turns the eggs, the bird turns the eggs 40 times a day, for what this is done is unknown. Chicks hatch after 25-28 days. Hatching lasts about a week, the last chicks from the last clutch are born.
Chicks are born with a body weight of 14-21 grams. Little owls are covered with white down, they are blind and completely helpless. They make squeaking and chirping sounds. Owls' eyes open on the fourth day of life. It has been noticed that the chicks from the first clutches develop much faster, but over time, the younger brothers catch up with the development of the older ones. By the end of the first month of life, the growth of the bird stops. A young owl becomes very similar to an adult bird, the difference remains only in plumage. Plumage development will end closer to 50 days of age.
The female, after the birth of offspring, warms them up, and stays with them all the time. The male brings food to the family. In the daytime, the male and female rest near the nest. If a person approaches the nest, the birds begin to actively chase him away with a hiss. Sometimes they can even attack a person. Owlets begin to leave the nest at the end of the first month of life, they begin to fly to neighboring trees. However, at this age, the chicks are not yet able to get food, and their parents feed them. At 10 weeks old, the chicks leave the nest without even learning to fly. Birds reach puberty at the age of one.
Now you have seen what a long-eared owl chick looks like. Let's see who hunts this bird?
Natural enemies of long-eared owls
Adult owls have few natural enemies. They are mostly larger birds of prey. Most often, eared owls are attacked by their own relatives, the tawny owl and eagle owl. Sometimes hawks and falcons can attack, but this is only in the daytime and if the bird itself has shown negligence. Basically, the life of this species of birds is measured and calm, the birds stay in flocks during the non-nesting period, and rarely attack them. Nests are destroyed by martens and ermines. Near human habitation, cats can climb into the nest. Mostly young inexperienced birds and small chicks suffer from attacks. And also young birds often die during long flights to wintering and back.
The main diseases that occur in long-eared owls are parasitic diseases.
Such diseases often settle in the nose of owls types of mites like:
- Rh. bricinboricus Btc.;
- Sternastoma strigitis Btk.;
- Rhinoecius oti Cooreman.
Owls are also parasitized by fleas of the species Ceratophillus gallinae and some other insects. Among the factors negatively affecting the population of this species is deforestation, the ecological situation worsening every year. Chicks often die in the so-called «hungry years» when parents are unable to feed their offspring. It has been noted that in years when the population of field mice increases, owls are also born more, and the likelihood that all chicks will survive as mice are the best food for these birds increases.
Photo: Long-eared owl in nature
The long-eared owl is one of the most numerous species inhabiting the expanses of our country. Owls of this species are found everywhere; they can be found in the forest, park or even in your own garden. On average, about seven broods of these birds can be found on an area of 120 hectares. Of the 38 reserves in our country, this species of owl was seen in 36, successful nesting was noted in 24 reserves.
On average in Europe, the number of long-eared owls is as follows: Great Britain and Ireland & # 8212; from 5 to 7 thousand pairs. France from 2 to 8 thousand pairs, Belgium about 7 thousand pairs, Finland about 2 thousand pairs, Sweden about 10 thousand pairs. In recent years, the population of birds of this species has noticeably decreased in the United States; in the state of Michigan, the species has even been taken under protection and is endangered. And also reduced the population of long-eared owls in Minnesota, California, and New Jersey. Perhaps the birds simply do not like this area at the moment, and the birds simply moved, because it is extremely difficult to track their numbers. In other countries, this species does not cause concern.
In our country, the species Asio otus is numerous and does not need special protection, but hunting for birds, like all birds of the owl family, is prohibited in our country. Mortality among birds of this species in the majority falls on the chicks of the first year of life, which is about 52% of the total mortality of birds.
The long-eared owl is a very graceful and beautiful bird, distinguished by beautiful, melodic cries that come from forests and groves at night time. It is undesirable to approach birds and touch their nests, especially since they do not like people very much. In captivity, these birds live longer because they have uninterrupted access to food.