The short-eared male owl is usually lighter in coloring than the female short-eared owl. The females tend to be a little larger than the males. They both have brown plumage and dark streaks on their back, belly and chest. The female is tawny-rust colored on her underside, while the male is white. Both are marked with brown on the underside, and their backs are brown and dappled with white.
Female Versus Male
The female has a slightly longer wingspan than the male. The female's wingspan is 42 inches whereas, the male's is 41 inches. The average short-eared owl weighs 8 lbs. and is between 13 and 17 inches long.
Breeding and Nesting
The short-eared owls begin breeding in March. The displays made during flight, including wing beats and wing-clapping, are part of the courting process. A male that is establishing his territory sings a song that sounds like "voo-hoo-hoo." If a female is impressed by what she sees during the male's flight antics, it responds with a barking sound "kee-ow." The female makes the nest on the ground. The female creates a cup of sorts, and lines it with down and grass. It will have four to nine eggs but it's possible for a female short-eared owl to lay as many as 14 eggs. The female alone incubates the eggs for one month. The male brings food to the female while nesting.
If disturbed while nesting, both the female and male owl will give out a hoarse call that sounds like "cheeaw." When having a good time, they hiss, bark, squawk and squeal.
The color of the short-eared owl is excellent for hiding from predators. If the owl thinks it is about to be spotted, it is capable of playing opossum to avoid detection.
More Physical Characteristics
The eyes of the short-eared owl are yellow. They are circles with black and sit in white facial disks that are inundated with a ring of brown. The owl's tail and wings are sturdily barred, and the bill is black. You can see the ear tufts of the owl when close to the bird. The ear tufts look like two ridges along the top of the owl's head. A distinctive feature of the short-eared owl when in flight is the dark wrist on the underwing, according to The Owl Pages.
This owl is nomadic which results in rare site and mate fidelity. The short-eared owl can live more than 12 years.