Nomadic Short-eared Owls

/, Box Elder County, Short-eared Owls, Utah/Nomadic Short-eared Owls

Short-eared Owl male watching a bird in the distanceShort-eared Owl male watching a bird in the distance – Nikon D810, f9, 1/800, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Short-eared Owls I found and photographed last year in northern Utah because spring is just around the corner and my chances for seeing them are increasing. Last year my opportunities for seeing and photographing Short-eared Owls were great, I found them often and photographed them frequently. This year may or may not be as good for Short-eared Owl photography. Time will tell.

Female Short-eared Owl in front of a pastureFemale Short-eared Owl in front of a pasture – Nikon D810, f9, 1/400, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

Short-eared Owls are nomadic because they follow their main prey which is voles and if the vole population is low the Short-eared Owl population density will also be low. If the vole population is high that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be Short-eared Owls around.

So, if there aren’t any Short-eared Owls where I found them last year it means I may need to widen my search for them and look for them in other areas of northern Utah.

Short-eared Owl chick in early morning lightShort-eared Owl chick in early morning light – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 320, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

I started seeing the Short-eared Owl adults last April, chicks in May and saw the adults and juveniles until about the end of July and after that I wasn’t seeing them close enough to photograph or I wasn’t seeing them at all.

That may mean that the vole population declined where I had been photographing them or that once the juveniles were on their own the adults and juveniles moved into different areas to hunt for prey. It is big country with lots of the habitat these owls prefer so they could have moved east, west, south or north and still found suitable habitat for their needs.

Side lit juvenile Short-eared OwlSide lit juvenile Short-eared Owl – Nikon D810, f6.3, 1/800, ISO 400, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

Over the winter I have noticed other birds of prey that also consume voles in large numbers hanging around the large area where I photographed Short-eared Owls last year and that gives me a little bit of hope that the Short-eared Owls will come back but I also know there isn’t a guarantee that they will.

I will be looking for these nomadic Short-eared Owls because they are beautiful, fascinating and captivating subjects. I still have more I want to learn about them.

Life is good.



  1. Kim February 27, 2017 at 6:48 am

    These are so beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Utahbooklover February 26, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    Yes, spring is right around the corner. And I agree with Patty, every one of these images is incredible. Thanks!

    • Mia McPherson February 27, 2017 at 4:14 am

      Thank you Utahbooklover!

  3. Patty Chadwick February 26, 2017 at 11:36 am

    Love everyone of these incredible images! Each one is a “favorite”…These owls represent the “essence if owl” to me….I hope someday to see one live…

    • Mia McPherson February 26, 2017 at 12:57 pm

      Thank you Patty and I hope you do too!

  4. suzanne Mcdougal February 26, 2017 at 7:57 am

    Mia, do you think that the move into some of their feeding areas of the herds of grazing cattle influenced that population? Have you seen them coexist on the same land? Thanks.I miss them, too.

    • Mia McPherson February 26, 2017 at 12:56 pm

      Suzanne, I do think cattle have an effect on where Short-eared Owls nest because the cattle eat the plants or trample them to the ground and then the owls don’t have enough cover shrubs to nest under or near.

  5. Bob mcpherson February 26, 2017 at 7:23 am

    Beautiful images,Mia

Comments are closed.