The Rosehill Short Eared Owl

Here at Rosehill Lodges, we are lucky enough to be surrounded by an enormous amount of wildlife. Our Luxury Lodges are situated in a wooded valley, by the Cornish Coast. A perfect spot for exploring nature and all that it has to offer. Listen out for the cry of the Short Eared Owl next time you stay with us!

Here’s a little bit about the Short Eared Owl:

Short-eared owls are medium sized owls with mottled brown bodies, pale under-wings and yellow eyes. They are commonly seen hunting during the day. In winter, there is an influx of continental birds (from Scandinavia, Russia, Iceland) to northern, eastern, and parts of central southern England, especially around the coast. They are of European conservation concern and so are an ‘Amber List’ species.

Short-eared Owls hunt mainly at night and during the morning and late afternoon. They fly over open areas, a few feet above ground, and pounce when prey is located. In dense vegetation they will hover over prey, often for extended periods when facing into the wind, before pouncing. They occasionally hunt from a perch or while standing on the ground. Short-eared Owls eat mainly small mammals, but sometimes take birds. Meadow voles (Microtus species) are the primary prey.

Courtship and territorial behaviour is spectacular for this owl. Males perform aerial displays by rising quickly with rhythmic and exaggerated wing beats, hovering, gliding down, and rising again, often 200 to 400 meters above ground. Wing claps, in bursts of 2 to 6 per second, are often made during this flight and some singing occurs. The flight can be ended with a spectacular descent where the male hold his wings aloft and shimmies rapidly to the ground. Two birds may engage in flight, locking talons, and fighting briefly. Often, a display where one bird flashes its light underwing towards another is used during territorial and courtship flights. The Short-eared Owl nests on the ground, unlike most other Owls.

Clutch sizes range from 4 to 14 eggs (average 5 to 7), with large clutches laid during years of high food abundance. Clutch size increases from south to north. Eggs are laid every 1 to 2 days and incubation commences with the first. Incubation is done largely by the female, with the male bringing food to the nest and occasionally taking a turn incubating. Young grow very rapidly after hatching, and begin to wander from the nest as soon as 12 days, an adaptation for a ground-nesting species to reduce the amount of time they are vulnerable to predation. Young fledge at about 4 weeks.

The Short-eared Owl routinely lays replacement clutches, because of high predation rates. In southern areas, it may raise 2 broods in 1 year. Because reproductive success is relatively poor, the ability to lay large clutches helps populations recover after periodic declines.

Wild Short-eared Owls have reached almost 13 years of age. Because they nest on the ground, they are vulnerable to mammalian predators such as skunks, dogs, foxes, while gulls, ravens, and crows steal eggs and small chicks.

Visit the Screech Owl Sanctury nearby for more wildlife.