Help Find Long-Eared Owls in PA

Long-eared owl in California (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

24 January 2021

Native to Eurasia and North America, long-eared owls (Asio otus) are shy and secretive medium-sized birds that hunt open areas and roost in woodland edges and conifer stands.

Range map of long-eared owl (from Wikimedia Commons)

In Pennsylvania they are present year-round and listed as Threatened, but are so elusive that it’s hard to keep track of them. The Game Commission plans to study Pennsylvania’s long-eared owls but needs preliminary data. They are asking birders for help.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is interested in learning more about long-eared owls in Pennsylvania, who are threatened and extremely vulnerable to disturbance [so] we’re asking birders to share their long-eared owl observations with us.

To protect the location of the birds, we are asking birders NOT to post their observations on eBird or other platforms at this time(*) but instead to send all observations–past or present–to Game Commission Wildlife Biologist, Patti Barber, at with “LEOW Observations” in the subject line. Include date, location, number of owls and evidence of owls in the area (seen, heard, pellets, feathers, heard etc).

Pictures are welcome, however, please maintain enough distance so as to not disturb the birds. Long-eared owls often abandon roosts when disturbed. Please do not walk on private property without owner’s consent. Thank you, in advance, for your help.

— partially paraphrased: Pennsylvania Game Commission, 19 January 2021 via Instagram

So how do you find a long-eared owl? Find is the hardest part. Long-eared owls are more strictly nocturnal than other owls so you’ll have to find them at the roost where they are masters at hiding in plain sight. Here are a few examples.

Roosting in dense deciduous woods in Minnesota:

Long-eared owl comouflaged in Minnesota (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Roosting in a conifer stand in Illinois, 2011. This owl looks like a fat branch with ear tufts.

Long-eared owl resembles a branch, Carlyle Lake, IL, 2011 (photo by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren via Wikimedia Commons)

Owl eyeing the photographer but still hidden.

Long-eared owl looks at the photographer, Illinois, 2011 (photo by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren)

I’ve only seen a long-eared owl three times in my life with each sighting 10 years apart. My last was in Beaver County in 2015 so I’m not due to see another one until 2025. I wonder if my quest will be successful.

(photos and map from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)

(*) eBird reports: The Game Commission is working with eBird to develop a process to allow these observations to be entered while also protecting these sensitive locations.

2 thoughts on “Help Find Long-Eared Owls in PA

  1. There was a post in Next Door yesterday about a dog-walker seeing one on Wilkins between Linden School and Dallas.

    Also, did you see that a female peregrine was trapped at the airport and relocated?

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