Photo Credit: Jeff Bahls

Wild Thing Wednesday is a one-of a kind entry with the short-eared owl. These crow sized owls are birds of open country, with fields and marshes being commonly frequented habitats. They have very long wings for their size, and have ear tufts so short they are often difficult to see. Their most easily recognized physical feature is their faces, with bright yellow eyes surrounded by rings of very dark feathers. This distinctive facial feature equips the short eared-owl for maximum visibility in pale light, and most sightings of this bird occur at dawn or dusk. Short-eared owls are unique in that they do not hunt from a perch, instead hunting while in flight. They travel low to the ground, and watch and listen for rodents and other small animals. Winter, as well as late fall and early spring are when short eared owls are most likely to visit Horicon Marsh, but sightings can be very unpredictable and dependent on conditions. Due to their small size, short eared owls can find hunting over thick, crusty snow to be a challenge, as they are not always able to break through the crust to reach prey animals underneath. If our snow cover is to thick, short eared owls will move on to easier hunting spots. These beautiful birds can be a tremendous challenge to find, making the occasional sighting an occurrence to remember.