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Long-eared Owl -
Native Species Global Rank
Agency Status USFWS
MBTA; BCC10; BCC11; BCC17
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Tufts appear to sit on the middle of the head above the eyes. Eyes yellow, bill black, and throat dark. Facial disk circular and rusty/brown; color intensity varies. Chest and belly are mixed with horizontal and vertical markings. Ventrally, mottled brown. Dorsally, the back is mottled with mixtures of brown. SIZE: 13 to 16 inches. WEIGHT: eight to 10 ounces. VOICE: A soft, "Hoo, hoo, hoo," varying in number and given at two to three-second intervals.
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see
Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
Great Horned Owl is much larger, tufts set wider on the head, and the throat is white.
Western Hemisphere Range
Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations:
(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version)
Map Help and Descriptions
SUMMER (Feb 16 - Dec 14)
Direct Evidence of Breeding
Indirect Evidence of Breeding
No Evidence of Breeding
WINTER (Dec 15 - Feb 15)
Not Regularly Observed
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
Migratory in northern latitudes, although some owls may stay throughout the winter.
Long-eared Owls are most often observed in hedgerows, woody draws, and juniper thickets, although they do occur within the forest edge. They are predominantly open-country hunters; however, they are seldom seen because of their nocturnal habits.
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system,
point observations were associated with that system.
Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at:
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.
Adams, R.A. 2003. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 289 p.
Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34. Missoula, MT.
Foresman, K.R. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 1302 p.
Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young. 1999. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. 72 p.
Maxell, B.A. 2000. Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species. Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1. Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana. 161 p.
Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath. 2004. Amphibians and reptiles of Montana. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.
Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Recently Disturbed or Modified
Shrubland, Steppe and Savanna Systems
Wetland and Riparian Systems
Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Depends heavily on small rodents.
Begins nesting in March or April; nests in a stick nest built by other raptors, magpies, crows, or ravens. Clutch size three to six. Incubation about 26 days. Young fledge at 30 to 40 days. Nests from late April into June. Young just out of nest as late as July.
Literature Cited Above
Legend: View Online Publication Marks, J.S., P. Hendricks, and D. Casey. 2016. Birds of Montana. Arrington, VA. Buteo Books. 659 pages. Additional References
Legend: View Online Publication Do you know of a citation we're missing? Allen, G. T. 1979. An assessment of potential conflicts between nesting raptors and human activities in the Long Pines area of southeastern Montana with special emphasis on uranium development. M.S. thesis, Washington State University, Pullman. 109 pp. American Ornithologists’ Union [AOU]. 1998. Check-list of North American birds, 7th edition. American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C. 829 p. Amstrup, S. C., and T. P. McEneaney. 1980. Bull snake kills and attempts to eat Long-eared Owl nestlings. Wilson Bulletin 92(3):402. Atkinson, E.C. 1992. Ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis) inventories on the Dillon Resource Area of southwest Montana: 1992. Montana Natural Heritage Program for Bureau of Land Management, Dillon Resource Area. 34 pp. Becker, Dale M., 1980, A Survey of raptors on national forest land in Carter County, Montana. Final Progress Report: 1977-1979. Bull, E.L., A.L. Wright, and M. G. Henjum. 1989. Nesting and diet of Long-eared Owls in conifer forests, Oregon. Condor 91:908-912. Call, M.W. 1979. Habitat management guides for birds of prey. Technical Note 338. Denver, CO: USDI Bureau of Land Management. 70 p. Cameron, E. S. 1907. The birds of Custer and Dawson counties, Montana. Auk 24(3): 241-270. Cameron, E. S. 1908. The birds of Custer and Dawson counties, Montana. Auk 25:39-56. Craighead, A.C. 2000. Pellet and scat analysis as indicators of present and past habitats. M.Sc. Theses. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 219 p. Decker Coal Co., 1981, Wildlife survey. July 7, 1981. In North Decker 5-Year Permit Application. Vol. III. Rule 26.4.304(12-14). Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant landbirds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. U.S.D.A. For. Serv. N. Region Publ. R1-93-34. Missoula, Mont. ECON, Inc. (Ecological Consulting Service), Helena, MT., 1979, Annual wildllife report of the Colstrip Area for 1979, including a special raptor research study. Proj. 216-85-A. March 1, 1980. Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder’s handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Schuster Inc. New York. 785 pp. Faanes, C.A. 1983. Breeding birds of wooded draws in western North Dakota. Prairie Nat. 15(4): 173-187. Fjell, Alan K., and Brian R. Mahan, compilers., 1984, Peabody Coal Company Big Sky Mine, Rosebud County, MT. Wildlife monitoring report: 1983 field season. February 1984. Fjell, Alan K., and Brian R. Mahan., 1985, Peabody Coal Company Big Sky Mine, Rosebud County, MT. Wildlife monitoring report: 1984 field season. February 1985. Gniadek, S. 1983. Southwest Glendive Wildlife Baseline Inventory. Miles City, Mont: Bureau of Land Management, Miles City District Office. 56 pp with appendices. Goodell, J. 2012. Morse Land Company Breeding Bird Inventory And Analysis. High Desert Museum. Bend, OR. 42 pp + Appendices. Haight, C.P. 1937. Some observations on the predator-prey complex in the Gallatin Valley. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 58 p. Hays, R., R.L. Eng, and C.V. Davis (preparers). 1984. A list of Montana birds. Helena, MT: MT Dept. of Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Hejl, S.J., R.L. Hutto, C.R. Preston, and D.M. Finch. 1995. The effects of silvicultural treatments on forest birds in the Rocky Mountains. pp. 220-244 In: T.E. Martin and D.M. Finch (eds). Ecology and Management of Neotropical Migratory Birds. New York, NY: Oxford Univ. Press. 489 p. Hendricks, P. 2005. Surveys for animal species of concern in northwestern Montana. Unpublished report to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, Montana, May 2005. 53 p. Holt, D. W. 1997. The Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) and forest management: A review of the literature. Journal of Raptor Research 31(2): 175-186. Holt, D. W., and J. M. Hillis. 1987. Current status and habitat associations of forest owls in western Montana. Pages 281-288 in Biology and conservation of northern forest owls: Symposium proceedings (R. W. Nero, R. J. Clark, R. J. Knapton, and R. H. Hamre, Eds.). U.S. Forest Service General Technical Report RM-142, Fort Collins, Colorado. Jellison, W.L. 1939. Sylvatic plague: studies of predatory and scavenger birds in relation to its epidemiology. Public Health Report 54: 792-798. Johnsgard, P.A. 1992. Birds of the Rocky Mountains with particular reference to national parks in the northern Rocky Mountain region. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. xi + 504 pp. Joslin, Gayle, and Heidi B. Youmans. 1999. Effects of recreation on Rocky Mountain wildlife: a review for Montana. [Montana]: Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Society. Lenard, S., J. Carlson, J. Ellis, C. Jones, and C. Tilly. 2003. P. D. Skaar's Montana bird distribution, 6th edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, MT. 144 pp. Lockhart, J. Michael, 1976, Effects of coal extraction and related development on wildlife populations. Annual progress report; Calendar year 1976. In Decker Coal Company West Pit Permit. Vol. 3. 26.4.304(10-11), 305, 306, and 307. Updated Rules Rewrite, July 1, 1991. Appendix F. Lockhart, J. Michael, and Terrence P. McEneaney, 1978, Effects of coal extraction and related development on wildlife populations. Annual progress report; Calendar year 1978. In Decker Coal Company West Pit Permit. Vol. 3. 26.4.304(10-11), 305, 306, and 307. Updated Rules Rewrite, July 1, 1991. Appendix F. Maples, M. T., D. W. Holt, and R. W. Campbell. 1995. Ground-nesting Long-eared Owls. Wilson Bulletin 107(3):563-565. Marks, J. and M. Edwards. 1996. Survey of nesting raptors in Harding County, South Dakota, Sioux Ranger District, Custer National Forest, 22 May-3 July 1996. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, Univ. of Montana, Missoula, and the Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena. Marks, J. S. 1984. Feeding ecology of breeding Long-eared Owls in southwestern Idaho. Canadian Journal of Zoology 62:1528-1533. Marks, J.S., D.L. Evans, and D.W. Holt. 1994. Long-eared Owl ( Asio otus). Species Account Number 133. The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology; Retrieved 3/25/2008 from The Birds of North America Online database Montana Bird Distribution Committee. 2012. P.D. Skaar's Montana bird distribution. 7th Edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, Montana. 208 pp. + foldout map. MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks. No date. Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area checklist. Oechsli, L.M. 2000. Ex-urban development in the Rocky Mountain West: consequences for native vegetation, wildlife diversity, and land-use planning in Big Sky, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Montana State University, Bozeman. 73 p. Phillips, R.L., A.H. Wheeler, N.C. Forrester, J.M. Lockhart, and T.P. McEneaney. 1990. Nesting ecology of golden eagles and other raptors in southeastern Montana and northern Wyoming. U.S. Fish Wildl. Serv. Tech. Rep. 26:1-13. Pitkin, P. and L. Quattrini. 2017. Pocket Guide to Sagebrush Birds. Bird Conservancy of the Rockies and Point Blue Conservation Science. 68 p. Richmond, C.W. and F.H. Knowlton. 1894. Birds of south-central Montana. Auk 11:298-308. Rogers, Ralph R. 1998. A Survey of Forest-Dwelling Owls in the Judith Resource Area of Central Montana. A Report for the USDI BLM Judith Resource Area. 10 pp + tables. Roy F. Weston, Inc., Bozeman, MT., and Western Technology and Engineering, Inc., Helena, MT., 1989, Stillwater PGM Resources East Boulder Project Addendum F: Supplemental Biological Studies. Final Report. December 1989. Sater, S. 2022. The insects of Sevenmile Creek, a pictorial guide to their diversity and ecology. Undergraduate Thesis. Helena, MT: Carroll College. 242 p. Schladweiler, Philip, and John P. Weigand., 1983, Relationships of endrin and other chlorinated hydrocarbon compounds to wildlife in Montana, 1981-1982. September 1983. Sibley, D. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY. 598 pp. Skaar, P. D., D. L. Flath, and L. S. Thompson. 1985. Montana bird distribution. Montana Academy of Sciences Monograph 3(44): ii-69. Skaar, P.D. 1969. Birds of the Bozeman latilong: a compilation of data concerning the birds which occur between 45 and 46 N. latitude and 111 and 112 W. longitude, with current lists for Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, impinging Montana counties and Yellowstone National Park. Bozeman, MT. 132 p. Thompson, L.S. 1978. Species abundance and habitat relations of an insular montane avifauna. Condor 80(1):1-14. Thompson, L.S. 1981. Circle West wildlife monitoring study: Third annual report. Technical report No. 8. Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. Helena, Montana. Thompson, Richard W., Western Resource Dev. Corp., Boulder, CO., 1996, Wildlife baseline report for the Montana [Montanore] Project, Lincoln and Sanders counties, Montana. In Application for a Hard Rock Operating Permit and Proposed Plan of Operation, Montanore Project, Lincoln and Sanders Counties, Montana. Vol. 5. Stroiazzo, John. Noranda Minerals Corp., Libby, MT. Revised September 1996. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2021. Birds of Conservation Concern 2021. United States Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Migratory Birds, Falls Church, Virginia. U.S. Forest Service. 1991. Forest and rangeland birds of the United States: Natural history and habitat use. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Agricultural Handbook 688. 625 pages. Verner, J., and L.V. Ritter. 1985. A comparison of transects and point counts in oak-pine woodlands of California. The Condor 87:47-68. Waage, B.C. 1984. Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Rosebud County, Montana: Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report, 1983 Field Season. June 1984. Waage, B.C. 1986. Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Rosebud County, Montana: Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report, 1985 Field Season. December 1985. Waage, B.C. 1989. Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana: Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report, 1989 Field Season. December 1989. Waage, Bruce C., compiler., 1985, Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Rosebud County, Montana: Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report, 1984 Field Season. October 1985. Waldt, R. 1995. The Pine Butte Swamp Preserve bird list. Choteau, MT: The Nature Conservancy. Updated August 1995. Watts, C.R. and L.C. Eichhorn. 1981. Changes in the birds of central Montana. Proceedings of the Montana Academy of Sciences 40:31-40. Western Energy Co., Colstrip, MT. Unpub., 1983, Western Energy Company's Application for Amendment to Surface Mining Permit NO. 8003, Area B: sections 7, 8, 17,18 T1N R41E, sections 12, 13 T1N R40E, Mining Expansion. March 1983. Western Energy Co., Colstrip, MT., 1981, Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana: Annual Wildlife Report, 1981. Western Energy Co., Colstrip, MT., 1982, Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana: Annual Wildlife Report, 1982. Western Technology and Engineering, Inc. (WESTECH)., 1993, Wildlife Monitoring Asaloka Mine Area Annual Report, 1992. Montana SMP 85005 R1. OSMP Montana 00078. 1993. Western Technology and Engineering, Inc. (WESTECH)., 2000, Wildlife Monitoring Absaloka Mine Area Annual Report, 1999. Montana SMP 85005. OSMP Montana 0007E. February 2000. Zackheim, K. 1973. Exhibit H: Wildlife Study. In Ash Grove Cement Co. files. Web Search Engines for Articles on "Long-eared Owl"
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