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Long-eared Owl

Long-eared Owl
Both sexes: Rich-buff brown with darker streaking and ear tufts.

The Long-eared Owl is smaller than a Tawny Owl but often looks tall and thin when roosting.

Males and females look alike and are predominantly buff-brown with darker brown streaks. The belly is paler with bold streaking and the tail feathers are finely barred. Their eyes are a deep orange, surrounded by golden-buff coloured facial disk feathers, and the hooked bill is blackish. The legs and feet are feathered.

The prominent "ear tufts" are simply feathers that it can raise when alert and have nothing to do with its hearing.

In flight, the undersides of the rounded wings are rather pale looking with a dark carpal patch (about half way along the leading edge of the wing). The wings are longer than a Tawny Owl's and the wing beat deeper and slower - often flapping a few times and then gliding.

Long-eared Owls are nocturnal and rarely seen in the daytime. The best time to see them is in the winter, when you may stumble across them roosting in a bush or tree (they often form communal roosts consisting of several birds).


Scientific Name Asio otus
Length 35 cm (14")
Wing Span 84-95 cm (34-38")
Weight 210-330 g (7½-11¾ oz)
Breeding Pairs 1100-3600
Present All Year
Status Green

Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.


The male's song is a moaning "hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo" and the call of the female is a nasal hoot; both are usually heard at night.


© Jean Roché,
Female Call

© Jean Roché,


The Long-eared Owl's prey includes small mammals, like mice and voles, and small birds.


Long-eared Owls breed in woodland and often nest in an old crow's nest. The eggs are laid on alternate days. The female incubates the eggs, which are smooth, white and about 40 mm x 33 mm.

Only the hen feeds the young with food brought by the male. If food is in short supply, the parents feed the oldest (and biggest) chick and the younger ones die and become food for the surviving chick.

Breeding Starts Clutches Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
February 1 3-8 25-30 c. 23


The resident breeding birds are joined by up to 35 000 migrants from northern Europe in the winter.


Long-eared Owl numbers are cyclical, increasing when rodents are prevalent, and at the moment their numbers are declining. They may also have lost ground to the increasing numbers of Tawny Owl.