email a friend
printable version
Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (extent of occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number approximately 3,000,000 individuals which equates to 2,000,000 mature individuals (Partners in Flight Science Committee 2013). The European population is estimated at 54,700-186,000 pairs, which equates to 109,000-372,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms approximately 14% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 391,000-1,330,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification
This species has undergone a large and statistically significant decrease over the last 40 years in North America (71.2% decline over 40 years, equating to a 26.7% decline per decade; data from Breeding Bird Survey and/or Christmas Bird Count: Butcher and Niven 2007). Note, however, that these surveys cover less than 50% of the species's range in North America. In Europe, the population trend is estimated to be fluctuating (BirdLife International 2015).

Due to its nesting habits and nomadic nature, the species is vulnerable to habitat loss at any season; conversion of open habitats to agriculture, grazing, recreation, housing and resort development is a key factor in decline, as well as reforestation in some areas. Wind-turbine developments may also impact the species. In central Europe declines have been caused by drainage and the intensification of agriculture, together with persecution, rodenticide poisoning, urbanization and traffic mortality. It does not always occupy apparently suitable habitat, which may be due to levels of prey or predation or the effects of distribution and abundance. Domestic and feral cats and dogs cause disturbance (Olsen et al. 2013). Skunks have been known to prey on eggs and nestlings (Olsen et al. 2013).

BirdLife International. 2015. European Red List of Birds. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Olsen, P.D., Kirwan, G.M. and Christie, D.A. 2013. Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. and de Juana, E. (eds), Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Partners in Flight Science Committee. 2013. Population Estimates Database, version 2013. Available at: (Accessed: 09/07/2015).

Rich, T.D.; Beardmore, C.J.; Berlanga, H.; Blancher, P.J.; Bradstreet, M.S.W.; Butcher, G.S.; Demarest, D.W.; Dunn, E.H.; Hunter, W.C.; Inigo-Elias, E.E.; Martell, A.M.; Panjabi, A.O.; Pashley, D.N.; Rosenberg, K.V.; Rustay, C.M.; Wendt, J.S.; Will, T.C. 2004. Partners in flight: North American landbird conservation plan. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY.

Further web sources of information
Detailed regional assessment and species account from the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International, 2015)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S. & Ashpole, J

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Asio flammeus. Downloaded from on 26/11/2015. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/11/2015.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Strigidae (Typical Owls)
Species name author (Pontoppidan, 1763)
Population size 350000-2000000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 29,300,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment