Long-eared Owl

Asio otus (Linnaeus, 1758) LE LOEOW 7670
Family: Strigiformes > Strigidae

Long-eared Owl, Edmund Fellowes

The Long-eared Owl is perhaps our most secretive owl. Almost entirely nocturnal in its habits it is a very difficult bird to census.

Its bright orange eyes, long ‘ear tufts’ and chestnut plumage ensure that any sighting of a Long-eared Owl is a treasured one. A denizen of deep woodland and scrubby shelterbelts, the Long-eared Owl is more often heard than seen. The best time to assess numbers, or even the presence of Long-eared Owls, is during the summer months when the ‘squeaky gate’ call of the young can be heard.

During harsh winters on the Continent our resident birds may be joined by migrant Long-eared Owls escaping the cold conditions. At this time of the year individuals may congregate in communal winter roosts, though the numbers of winter immigrants has decreased over recent years.


Long-eared Owl identification is often straightforward. The following article may help when identifying Long-eared Owl.


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Long-eared Owl, provided by xeno-canto contributors.

Begging call




Develop your bird ID skills with our training courses

Our interactive online courses are a great way to develop your bird identification skills, whether you're new to the hobby or a competent birder looking to hone your abilities.

Browse training courses

Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



The Long-eared Owl is a scarce species in the UK and is monitored by the RBBP; however as a nocturnal species which is difficult to detect it is substantially under-reported and the trend is uncertain (Eaton et al. 2021). The most recent UK population estimate is 1,800+ pairs (APEP4) but this is also highly uncertain. The number of occupied 10-km squares in Britain has declined by 18% since the 1968–72 Breeding Atlas, but the map shows many gains and losses which may suggest difficulties in detecting the species when present (Balmer et al. 2013).


Long-eared Owls breed at scattered locations in Britain and throughout Ireland. In Ireland the Long-eared Owl is the most abundant owl species, and probably benefits from the absence of the competitively dominant Tawny Owl. Long-eared Owls are sedentary throughout Britain & Ireland but are joined by annually variable numbers of autumn immigrants from Fennoscandia. The winter distribution is patchy throughout both Britain and Ireland and likely to suffer from under-recording.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


The Long-eared Owl's breeding range has apparently contracted by 18% since the 1968–72 Breeding Atlas but there is also marked turnover, with more than half of squares showing gains or losses since 1968–72. This may be partly a consequence of birds being missed in one atlas or another, but the significant gains in northern England and clusters of losses in southeast England, southwest Scotland and the Black Isle are notable.

Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK


Long-eared Owls are present throughout the year but not often recorded on daytime lists. Reporting is slightly higher in summer when juveniles are easily detected by their squeaky calls.

Weekly occurence of Long-eared Owl from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Long-eared Owl ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


Lifecycle and body size information about Long-eared Owl, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Comhachag-adharcach
Welsh: Tylluan Gorniog
Catalan: mussol banyut
Czech: kalous ušatý
Danish: Skovhornugle
Dutch: Ransuil
Estonian: kõrvukräts
Finnish: sarvipöllö
French: Hibou moyen-duc
German: Waldohreule
Hungarian: erdei fülesbagoly
Icelandic: Eyrugla
Irish: Ceann Cait
Italian: Gufo comune
Latvian: ausaina puce
Lithuanian: mažasis apuokas
Norwegian: Hornugle
Polish: uszatka (zwyczajna)
Portuguese: bufo-pequeno
Slovak: myšiarka ušatá
Slovenian: mala uharica
Spanish: Búho chico
Swedish: hornuggla


Interpretation and scientific publications about Long-eared Owl from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

Due to the difficulties in detecting the species the trend is uncertain and hence the drivers of change are also unclear.

Links to more information from ConservationEvidence.com

Would you like to search for another species?