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Tips for identifying owl species

Here you will find some tips for telling apart the native Pueo or Hawaiian Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus sandwichensis) from the introduced Barn Owl (Tyto alba). Please read the appearance, sounds, flight and habitat of these two species!

Short-eared Owl identification

  • About 350mm tall with a wing span of 1000mm.

  • Mottled pale brown underparts with upper breast streaked dark brown.

  • Mottled pale and dark brown upperparts.

  • Rounded brown face, yellow eyes and short, often indiscernible ear tufts.

  • Overall impression in flight of a large brown bird (but underparts can look almost white).

  • Buoyant flight in a back and forth motion.

  • Lives in farmland, moorland and wetland habitats, including marshes and reedbeds.

  • A male’s rarely heard song is a low ‘boo-boo-boo-boo-boo’, whilst females give a ‘ree-yow’ call.

  • Both nocturnal and diurnal, they can be seen hunting in daylight in suitable habitat.

Barn Owl identification

  • About 330mm tall with a wing span of 900mm.

  • Largely white underparts.

  • Golden buff upperparts with grey markings.

  • White, heart-shaped face with dark eyes.

  • Overall impression in flight of a large white bird.

  • Slow, buoyant flight in a back and forth motion.

  • Lives mainly in open farmland habitat (not woodland).

  • Seen but not heard, they call rarely.

  • Barn Owls don’t hoot! They shriek, hiss and snore.

  • Often seen at night whilst driving but dawn and dusk sightings are most common.

  • Barn Owl pellets are different from other owl pellets.

I hope this tips are useful for your future birdwatching adventures!

#identification #birdwatching #barnowl

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