Long-eared Owl

Long-eared Owl by Paul Conover
© paul conover
Asio otus
In many northern states, bird enthusiasts search for this nocturnal owl in the isolated patches of evergreen trees that stand out in winter amid a generally leafless landscape. They scan the ground for the elongated pellets that betoken the presence of Long-eared Owls, sitting as immobile as if frozen, on the boughs above. In Louisiana, this method has not worked. We are surrounded by a winter sea of green-vast pine forests, augmented by live oaks, broad-leaved magnolias, and other trees that do not shed foliage in fall. In our surroundings, a searcher for Long-eared Owls does not know where to begin. One perceptive Baton Rougean, however, did not have to look far. On a short walk in downtown Baton Rouge, he spotted two of these owls perched in a live oak in a front yard, only a block from the State Capitol.
To Leslie Glasgow and his woodcock banders we are indebted for the information that Long-eared Owls hunt over the open fields at night. Along country roads squeaking will sometimes entice them to alight nearby on a fence. If a dashboard plug-in searchlight is then shined upon them, they will sit for a long time without flying, as though spellbound. Often, after the haunts of Long-ears have been located, a series of observations result. But if we count as separate records only definite occurrences in different winters or in different places, the all-time Louisiana score for the species is only 13 sets of observations, 3 of them supported by specimens. Sightings extend from October 20 to the last week of March and are confined to Caddo, Vermilion, Iberia, Iberville, Pointe Coupee, East Baton Rouge, Livingston, and St. Charles parishes.
In general appearance the Long-eared Owl suggests a Great Horned Owl but is not much more than half the size of the latter and is longitudinally streaked instead of horizontally barred below. Moreover, the exceptionally long "ear" tufts are situated closer together, near the center of the head. It is about the size of a Short-eared Owl, but that species is predominantly buffy in color, instead of dusky and gray with only a smattering of buffy. Flying at night in the beam of a spotlight, Long-ears exhibit dark "wrist" marks, much like those of the Short-eared Owl. --George H. Lowery, Jr., 1974, Louisiana Birds

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