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December 2017

Friday, 1 December 2017

December Bird of the Month - Short-eared Owl

December Bird of the Month - Short-eared Owl

The sexes are alike, with buffish-brown plumage that is heavily spotted and streaked on the upperparts and neck. The underparts are pale but have fine dark streaks. The facial disc is round with distinct black patches around the yellow staring eyes which can make the bird appear very fierce. The short ear-tufts are vestigial and are rarely seen.

The flight of Short-eared Owl is slow and leisurely with frequent glides. Birds usually quarter the ground at low level, with their long round-tipped wings held rather stiffly.

Small mammals are their favoured prey and indeed their' range and abundance is dictated by the vole population cycles. They nest is a small scrape on the ground and live for between ten and fifteen years.

Their song in flight is a series of deep hoots, six to twenty notes at a time, audible at a distance of up to 1 kilometre away, and usually accompanied by short, quick wing claps.

Elmley is a stronghold for this bird in winter and we will hope to see one hunting in daylight or perched on a fence post or tussock during our visit there on the 3rd December. Harty Ferry road at dawn/dusk is also another good spot locally to connect with this magnifient bird.

To find out more about this special bird watch the short Springwatch videos below.