Owls of Iowa: Long-eared owl
They might be called the long-eared owl (Asio otus), but you actually can't see their ears.
Instead, this state-threatened owl has feathered tufts on top of its head that look like it has long, pointy ears.
They have a loud call.
Like the great-horned owl, the long-eared owl has a hoot, like we expect from owls. The male's call can sometimes be heard from up to 1 kilometer away. Listen here:
Long-eared owls are truly nocturnal.
The long-eared owl fits into about every description we typically think of with owls, including that it is strictly nocturnal. Its ears position and facial disc amplify sounds so that it has amazing hearing and can hunt in even pitch black darkness.
It eats mostly small mammals and eats them whole, regurgitating indigestible parts such as fur and bone into owl pellets.
They are scarce.
The long-eared owl is state threatened, and it was listed on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List. However, they have wonderful camouflage and secretive, nocturnal behavior, so their population trends are actually difficult to determine.
They need a mix of grassland --- for foraging --- and wooded areas --- for roosting and nesting --- so they are susceptible to habitat loss.
Long-eared owls are nest stealers.
Instead of making their own nests, long-eared owls will commandeer another bird's nest for their own use --- usually from magpies, crows, ravens and hawks.
According to Cornell University's All About Birds site,
They could be confused for a great-horned owl.
Since they have a hooting call and tufts on top of the head, they could be easily confused for a great-horned owl. However, long-eared owls are smaller. They are about crow-sized, growing up to 15.8 inches in length, weighing an average of 10 ounces and having a wingspan up to 39.4 inches.
Plus, long-eared owls have longer tufts on top of the head. Some people say the long-eared owl always looks surprised because of the length and placement of these tufts.
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