Long-eared Owls spend their days roosting in dense stands of trees, preferring locations at the edge of grasslands, which is exactly the kind of place where we found this pair of owls. They often perch close to the trunks of trees, where their cryptic coloring allows them to blend into the bark, melting into the dappled shade of dense foliage.
Long-eared Owls are residents throughout much of California, though they seem to be rare in the Great Central Valley and the northwestern coastal forests. They can be nomadic and secretive, making their movements difficult to track. It seems that some individuals migrate, while others don't. During the winter (non-breeding season), they are known to roost communally and groups of up to 100 birds have been observed. Long-eared Owls rely on dense stands of trees for cover, bordered by open areas for hunting. In the west, this habitat combination can be difficult to come by.
Long-eared Owls are nocturnal hunters, very rarely flying out to hunt before true darkness has set in. Favored prey includes small mammals such as voles, mice, gophers and young rabbits. Like other owl species, the flight feathers of Long-eared Owls have fringed edges and downy surfaces to dampen sound, allowing them to fly and hunt in silence.
The call of the Long-eared Owl is a series of mellow "whoo" notes, repeated every 2 to 4 seconds. The sound is similar to the sound made by blowing across the top of a bottle. Eric and I heard a Long-eared Owl calling from our campground at Carrizo Plain, starting at 9:00 pm and continuing throughout the night. (Each time I woke up during the night, I made sure to listen for the owl!) This owl's call can be heard from over half a mile away.