About This Species
The long-eared owl's name is a misnomer—what appear to be ears are actually long tufts of hair that stick up, making the mid-sized owl appear to be either surprised or angry. The owls live across North America, preferring dense forests. They can also be found across Europe, North Africa and Asia.
Long-eared owls hunt mostly at night, preferring small mammals like rodents, but sometimes feeding on other small creatures like birds, lizards and bats.
The birds are less conspicuous than other owls and call out less frequently. That makes it more difficult for scientists to track them and get a handle on how the species is faring. But in some areas, the winter of 2017 has been noticeably different. Around Chicago, for instance, there have been widespread sightings of the owls. It's a phenomenon called an irruption—when large numbers of a species show up outside their typical habitat.
These types of events are often driven by food—either a lack of it in the animal's typical habitat, or a surplus of it in a new region.
The long-eared owl is projected to lose 73 percent of its current winter range as climate change progresses, according to Audubon's climate models. That means the species will have to find ways to shift further north to find suitable habitat.