Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Northern Long-eared Owl (Asio otus)


French: Hibou moyen-duc German: Waldohreule Spanish: Búho chico
Other common names: Long-eared Owl

Strix Otus


, 1758,



Closely related to A. abyssinicus and A. madagascariensis, both of which have been treated as races of present species; seems to be close also to A. stygius. Protein studies indicate unusually large genetic distance between present species and morphologically similar A. flammeus#R. Given nomadic tendencies of species, subspecific status of tuftsi questionable, possibly inseparable from wilsonianus#R. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. o. otus (Linnaeus, 1758) – Eurasia (from British Is and Iberia) E to Sea of Okhotsk, S to Mediterranean islands, Middle East, N Pakistan (has bred) and Japan, with isolated population in EC China; also Azores, and NW Africa (Morocco to NW Tunisia); in winter to N Iran, S Afghanistan, S Pakistan, N India#R, S & E China.
  • A. o. canariensis Madarász, 1901 – Canary Is.
  • A. o. tuftsi Godfrey, 1948 – W Canada (S Yukon, S British Columbia E to Saskatchewan) S to N Mexico (NW Baja California, Nuevo León) and S USA (W Texas); in winter S to Mexico.
  • A. o. wilsonianus (Lesson, 1830) – from SC & SE Canada (Manitoba E to Nova Scotia) S in USA to N Oklahoma and Virginia; in winter S to Mexico.
  • Descriptive notes

    Male 35–38 cm, 220–305 g; female 37–40 cm, 260–435 g; wingspan 90–100 cm. Medium-sized owl with large, round head and conspicuous ear tufts.... read more


    Complex repertoire in breeding season; advertising song of male is series of 10 to more than 200... read more


    During breeding season, inhabits dense vegetation adjacent to open areas such as grassland or... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly small mammals; birds important in a few studies. Voles (Microtus) dominate diet in many mesic areas of North America, but... read more


    Season Feb–Jul, with most later nests being renesting attempts by failed breeders; one unusual case of pair laying eggs in early Oct... read more


    Resident and migratory; migration poorly understood. Nomadic in response to fluctuating prey... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Owing in part to nomadic behaviour, very difficult to determine population trends; estimates of global population size... read more

    Recommended citation

    Olsen, P.D. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Northern Long-eared Owl (Asio otus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 1 April 2020).