The Short-eared Owl is Maine’s only ground-nesting owl and is a very rare breeding bird in the northern portions of the state. These owls are usually active day and night and can often be observed from late afternoon to dusk. Unlike most of Maine’s owls, Short-eared Owls are more often seen than heard. Their sounds and vocalizations include “hoo”s, barks, hisses, and bill snaps. Individuals are most active at dusk and dawn. The best way to try to observe this species is to scan for foraging owls in large grasslands or marshes during twilight. During the early breeding season, males perform aerial displays to court females. Nests are constructed from grasses and feathers on knolls, ridges, and hummocks in grasslands and grain stubble fields. Adults will occasionally feign injury to draw potential predators away from the nest.
Safe Dates: May 1st to August 1st (applicable for only the S or H codes).
Breeding Evidence: Short-eared Owls nests later than the other owl species and should not be coded before May in most cases. All potential breeding records should be carefully documented. The most likely breeding code for this species is FL for observations of recently fledged young not yet capable of strong flight. These young birds leave the nest from 2 to 3 weeks after hatching, but remain on the ground nearby under the care of their parents another few weeks.
Image courtesy of Tom Koerner. .
Audio courtesy of Bruce Lagerquist.