Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus)
The short-eared owl prefers to live and nest in grassland habitat that is interspersed with shallow wetlands or wet meadows. Nests can be found in clumps of vegetation or at the base of shrubs scattered in the grassland. Nests can contain up to nine eggs, but more typically they hold five to seven eggs. It only takes a couple of weeks before the young leave the nest site to hide in the vegetation nearby. In another three weeks, they will be flying.
Unlike other owls, this owl can be found hunting both day and night. Their primary prey are the many types of rodents that can be found in their grassland habitat. They are also known to eat a variety of insects. They hunt by gliding low over the ground, watching for movement from their prey below. Sometimes, they will land on the ground and sit to watch for prey.
Because of its preference for large open grasslands, the short-eared owl was probably never very abundant in Michigan. Recent declines in the state can be attributed to loss of habitat to development and succession. Conservation of the species will require management to maintain open grassland habitats with good rodent populations.
Asio flammeus (University of Michigan, Museum of Zoology)
Identification Tips & More (USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center)