Above, a Short-eared Owl hunts on the wing in the afternoon. This species often hunts during the day, unlike most other owls.
Many Short-eared Owls have been wintering in our area this season. The previous winter, I didn’t see a single one. I read in a book about owls that this species will often gather in groups when their preferred prey, voles, are abundant. That seems to explain what we’ve been seeing around here, lately.
This is one small part of the Samish Flats, a river delta in northwestern Washington where Short-eared Owls and many other birds spend the winter:
Here, there is plenty of open ground for hunting. This owl flies low over the brush on silent wings, watching and listening for voles:
The next two photos aren’t the greatest, but they show a fight between two owls. One chases the other:
Here they lock talons. The aggressor is the bird on the bottom. After a brief tussle they let go of each other and the owl who had the height advantage left the area:
This is what the fighting is all about—space to hunt:
The next post will take a closer look at what else these beautiful owls are up to. Meanwhile, here are a couple more captures of these day flying owls: