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eBird maps track Short-eared Owl movements

Short-eared Owl. Photo by Steve Large

In On the Move, our regular column about migration, we present pairs of distribution maps from eBird that you can use to compare where interesting birds are at different times of the year. We featured Short-eared Owl, pictured above, in our January/February 2019 issue.

Short-eared Owl map
Distribution maps from eBird show where Short-eared Owls have been spotted in February 2007-2017 (left), and June 2007-2017

One of the most cosmopolitan of the world’s owl species, the Short-eared Owl has a remarkable capacity for long-distance movement and occurs in North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. In June, the owl occurs across nearly all of Alaska and Canada as well as large portions of the western states, Great Plains, and Great Lakes regions, where it breeds in grasslands, prairies, tundra, marshes, and agricultural areas. By February, Short-ears have largely vacated the northern extent of their breeding range, occurring across nearly all of the lower 48 and southern Canada where suitable habitat exists. In North America, there is concern about apparent widespread populations declines, though the bird’s nomadic nature, crepuscular activity schedule, and overall low abundance make it difficult to study. Look for the distinctive moth-like flight of the species as it courses low over prime hunting grounds in search of food.

See eBird’s real-time distribution map for Short-eared Owl. 


eBird is the real-time online checklist operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon. “On the Move” is written by eBird’s Garrett MacDonald, Chris Wood, Marshall Iliff, and Brian Sullivan. Submit your bird sightings at

A version of this article appeared in “Birding Briefs” in the January/February 2019 issue of BirdWatching.

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