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Contact information
For information on Wisconsin's rare vertebrate animals, contact:
Rich Staffen
Conservation Biologist
For information on Wisconsin's rare invertebrates, contact:
Jay Watson
Conservation Biologist

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)



Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus), a State Special Concern bird, has been found breeding at a very small number of sites in the central and northwestern parts of the state. Wisconsin provides very important wintering habitat for this species. The Short-eared Owl is a medium-sized owl with long, narrow wings, a round head with yellow eyes and very short ear-tufts rarely visible in the field. The species can be found in large grasslands dominated by tall grass and with little or no woody vegetation. During the breeding season, nests are placed on the ground on slightly higher and drier areas such as small knolls, ridges, or hummocks within grasslands and wet meadows. It is an area-sensitive species that requires blocks of idle grasslands 100-250 acres or larger. The recommended avoidance period is March 20 - August 1. See the species guidance document for avoidance measures and management guidance from the Natural Heritage Conservation Program.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.

Documented locations of Asio flammeus in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusSC/M
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1B,S3N
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

This document contains identification and life history information for Short-eared Owl. It also describes how to screen projects for potential impact to this species, lists avoidance measures, and provides general management guidance.

Short-eared Owl Species Guidance [PDF]



Short-eared Owl

Immature Short-eared Owl.

Photo by  staff, WDNR.

Short-eared Owl

Photo © Dennis Malueg.

Short-eared Owl

Photo © Jack Bartholmai.

Short-eared Owl

The Short-eared Owl relies on large acreages of open habitats, such as sedge meadows, prairies, barrens, and surrogate grasslands.

Photo © Jack Bartholmai.

Short-eared Owl

Photo © Dennis Malueg.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Short-eared Owl. Only natural communities for which Short-eared Owl is "high" (score=3) or "moderate" (score=2) associated are shown. See the key to association scores for complete definitions. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Short-eared Owl. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of Short-eared Owl occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

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Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

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Issues/threats and conservation actions

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for rare animals

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Last revised: Thursday, October 08, 2020