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Asio flammeus

warning Critically Endangered
CR (D1)

Contributed: Avner Rinot, Ezra Hadad, Asaf Mayrose, Yoav Perlman, Lior Kislev
Update Time: Jan. 1, 2011, 7:39 a.m.

The Short-eared Owl is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) because of the extremely small breeding population estimated at less than 50 mature individuals. The species apparently does not breed in Israel every year. In the previous edition of the red book (2002), it was classified as Data Deficient (DD). The change in its status reflects new discoveries regarding its breeding range in Israel and its potential population size.
CR Current Regional Assessment | DD Previous Regional Assessment | LC Global Assessment

Habitats Wetland Thickets, Cropland, Humid Lowlands
Presence In Israel Summer
Breeding In Israel Breeder
Migration Types Nomad
Zoographical Zones Mediterranean
Landscape Types Plains & Valleys, Wetlands, Marsh, Wetland Thickets
Vegetation Types Cropland, Herbaceous, Marsh and Riparian
Vegetation Densities Medium, Low
Nest Locations Ground
Diet Types Terrestrial Vertebrates
Foraging Grounds Ground
Body Sizes Small (up to 500g)
Threat Factors Pesticide Poisoning, Habitat loss and fragmentation, Nest destruction by agricultural activity, Wetland Drainage & Pollution

The Short-eared Owl is a medium-sized owl, with a dark brown striped plumage on its upper parts and breast, and pale cream on its lower parts. Eyes are yellow and “ear” tufts are short. It is a nocturnal species that also hunts in daylight, often in full light, in the morning and afternoon. Hunting method resembles harriers, as it flies low with raised wings surveying the open fields below. Usually flies against the wind using hearing as the main sense in locating prey.

The Short-eared Owl was apparently a rather rare breeder in northern and central Israel until the 1970s, particularly in “vole years” (Sela 1975, Paz 1986, Shirihai 1996). Since then the number of nesting observations has decreased considerably. In spring 1998, a farmer collected a nest with nestlings in the Hamadia area (Bet She’an Valley) (Kobi Merom, pers. comm.). In 2005, a fledgling was hit by a vehicle near Gedera, and three family groups were seen in the Judean Lowlands in spring 2016, which was a “vole year” in that area (Ezra Hadad, pers. comm.).

Nests on the ground, usually in marshes, wetlands and meadows. It also overwinters in arid areas in the desert transition area and in coastal sand dunes.

The Short-eared Owl nests on the ground, usually in marshes, wetlands, meadows and agricultural fields. It was impacted by marsh drainage, changes and destruction of fallow areas, as well as by secondary poisoning by agricultural pesticides. Individuals nesting in cultivated fields are vulnerable to injury by farming equipment or by eruptive species such as jackals, mongooses and crows. There is no data regarding how the species is affected by the increase in barn owls used for pest control in agricultural areas (over 2,000 nesting boxes have been erected; Yossi Leshem pers. Comm.).

No specific conservation measures have been taken for this species to date.

The Short-eared Owl is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) because of the extremely small number of breeding pairs in Israel. It is possible that the species breeds in Israel only in years with vole eruptions. There is a lack of comprehensive surveys in potential nesting areas such as the Golan Heights, the Northern Valleys and the Judean Lowlands.

The quality habitats, in which nesting Short-eared Owls were found in recent years (mostly in the Judean Lowlands) should be preserved. There is need of comprehensive surveys to determine the possibility of its presence in areas where it once nested, such as the Golan Heights, the Jordan Valley and the Judean Lowlands. Also, data regarding interactions between Short-eared Owls and other raptor species should be researched. Nest boxes for Barn Owls and Common Kestrels should not be put in Short-eared Owl nesting areas.

  • פז, ע. 1986. עופות. מתוך אלון, ע. (עורך), החי והצומח של ארץ ישראל. כרך 6. הוצאת משרד הביטחון, ישראל.
  • Mendelssohn, H. 1975. Report on the Status of Some Bird Species in Israel in 1974. I.C.B.P. 12:265-270.
  • Shirihai, H., 1996. The Birds of Israel. Academic Press, London.
  • Symes, A. 2013. Species generation lengths. Unpublished, BirdLife International.
  • Species page at Birdlife International
Contributed: Avner Rinot, Ezra Hadad, Asaf Mayrose, Yoav Perlman, Lior Kislev

Current Occupancy Map

Current occupancy map by density
Data Missing Sporadic Limited Sites Low Density High Density
0 0 0 0 0

Distribution maps

The maps presented here provide visual information on the distribution of species in Israel from the past and present, and the changes in occupancy and breeding density during the comparison period. For further reading

Relative Abundance 2010-2020

Breeding density values in the current decade as determined from experts' opinion and observations from databases.

Relative Abundance 2010-2020 by density
Data Missing Sporadic Limited Sites Low Density High Density
8 12 12 21 19

Relative Abundance 1980-1990

Density values based primarily on the book The Birds of Israel (Shirihai 1996).

Relative Abundance 1980-1990 by density
Data Missing Sporadic Limited Sites Low Density High Density
5 14 14 17 22

Occupancy 1990-2020

The map shows differences in the species breeding distribution between the 1980's breeding map and the current weighted breeding evaluation. Negative value - species previously bred in the grid and is not presently breeding; positive value - species has not previously bred in the grid and is currently breeding.

Occupancy 1990-2020
Data Missing No Change Occupancy Increase Occupancy Decrease
6 35 1 9

Change in Relative Abundance 1990-2020

The map shows the changes in the relative abundance of a species in each of the distribution grids between the breeding map of the 1980s and the weighted current breeding evaluation. Negative values - decline in abundance; positive values - increase in abundance; zero - no change in abundance.

Change in Relative Abundance 1990-2020
80 to 100 50 20 to 30 No Change 30- to 20- 50- 100- to 80- Data Missing
0 4 2 22 12 14 11 16

Red number
IUCN category
Threat Definition according to the red book
() districts
% of protected sites

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