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Long eared owl (Asio otus)

A typically wise looking owl, the ear tufts on its head give the long eared owl its eponymous name.

Common name: long eared owl

Scientific name: Asio otus

Family: Strigidae (owls)


Head: is orange-brown in colour with distinct white eyebrows and bright orange eyes. The head feathers or tufts are usually flattened but raise when the owl is alarmed.

Wings: are dark with a mottled brown pattern and an orange flash on upper side of the wings. The long eared owl has a wingspan of 95cm.

Body: the front of its body is cream, streaked with black and its back is brown. The long eared owl looks deceptively long and thin in flight, in actuality it is no bigger than a wood pigeon.

Where to spot

You're most likely to spot a long eared owl in coastal areas as it migrates to warmer climes. When in the UK they prefer the cover of dense, shrubby thickets, hedgerows and mixed woodland.


The long eared owl eats small mammals, particularly voles and mice, but it will also eat small birds. When hunting, it flies across clearings and fields, sweeping through the sky in a zig-zag pattern scanning the ground for food. When it spots prey it swoops down from sky and bites the back of the head, disabling it instantly.


It first breeds at one year old and raises a brood of three to five between March and June. The long eared owl rears it young in the old, disused nests of other birds.


  • In winter long eared owls often roost in groups, which are called ‘a parliament of owls’
  • It is a nocturnal hunter and a shy bird which makes it hard to spot in the daytime
  • Typical lifespan is four years.