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  • Writer's pictureGregg Severson

Leap for a Long-eared Owl!

Updated: Mar 20, 2019

Birding is definitely an activity where it pays to have good friends to help you find birds!

After I got home from my birding trip on Friday, I went to get my new rear rack on my mountain bike adjusted so my main pannier would fit on it. I had just gotten home from that when I got a text from my friend Jason Caddy. He had a Long-eared Owl in his front yard!! That is amazing news - Jason only lives about 2 miles from me, and a Long-eared Owl is one of the harder owl species to find in Minnesota. I started hyperventilating a little bit - this was really exciting news and I definitely wanted to get there as quickly as possible to see the bird before it had any chance to leave! The title of this post isn't just cute alliteration - I was literally leaping out of my house to get to the bird quickly!

I threw my stuff on my bike and sprinted down to Jason's address. Jason was with Alex Sundvall and they were looking up at the Long-eared Owl where it was high in some conifer trees at the center of Jason's townhouse complex. Jason found the owl because it was being mobbed by some crows, and he directed me to where the owl was by saying "It is just below the crow and to the left - right along the trunk of the tree." Bam - I saw it! That is a great bird to add to my year list!

Long-eared Owl and American Crow high in a conifer
Here you can see the scene as I first saw the owl - it was high up in a tree and quite obscured, but the crow helped us find it!

We decided to move around to a better vantage point where we might be able to see the owl better, but without getting too close so as to spook it. At this new vantage point, I got better looks than I'd ever had of a Long-eared Owl, but it was still fairly high up and obscured by branches. Alex got his scope from his car and set it up where we could get the best views possible. Good views of a great bird!

I texted Kellie and urged her to come see the owl - she was done with her blood donation and would be able to zip over and see the owl too. As we were watching the owl, all of a sudden it decided to fly! It actually swooped down close to Jason's living room window and then out of sight. Oh no - was the bird going to leave before Kellie could get there? We didn't think the owl had flown far, so we tried to change our vantage point and see if we could relocate it. Alex went left and was the first to refind it, and set his scope up on the new spot. It turns out that the owl was in a more open spot and lower down, so we got even better views! Now, I just had to hope that the bird would stay put until Kellie showed up!

After a bit, the crows returned - they went right to the spot in the conifers where the owl had been. The crows might have been sharing information amongst each other, or maybe just checking on the owl to keep tabs on where it was. But the owl had moved! We watched the Long-eared Owl go into its defensive, camouflaged posture. They raise their ear tufts, elongate their body, and close their eyes into tiny slits. All of this makes them look more like a tree trunk and less like an owl - making it much harder for harassing crows to find owls! Compare the two shots below of the Long-eared Owl in its relaxed posture in the first photo and its defensive posture in the second photo.

The crows didn't detect the owl in its new spot - so the move and the camouflage worked! I was still waiting for Kellie, but I was a bit less worried about the owl moving since the crows couldn't refind it!

Kellie finally arrived and we both got the best looks we are ever likely to have of a Long-eared Owl! It even went into defensive posture one more time for Kellie when crows revisited the area.

Thanks so much to Jason for sharing this bird with us! (Note: the bird was not in the same area the next day - it was likely migrating north and just stopped in the middle of the city for one day before heading on to more appropriate habitat.!

Miles biked on this trip: 4.0

Miles biked year to date: 158.7

Species count: 43

My bike birding eBird profile:

Fundraising links for the two organizations I am supporting with this green big half year. Please donate!

Friends of Sax-Zim Bog:

National MS Society:

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Mar 19, 2019

Such great views of an exciting bird! I'm glad that I made it in time - thanks for keeping an eye on it for me! ;)

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