MDC invites public to search for short-eared owls on Dec. 7

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JOPLIN, Mo. – Short-eared owls don’t have short ears but they have a number of characteristics that make them interesting members of Missouri’s bird world.

People will have a chance to hear – and possibly see – short-eared owls on Dec. 7 at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) short-eared owl hike. This free program, which will be 4:30-6 p.m., is for ages 12 and up and will take place at the Shawnee Trail Conservation Area in Barton County. People can register for this program at:

People can call the Shoal Creek Conservation Center in Joplin, 417-629-3434 for directions to the Shawnee Trail Area.

The name of the short-eared owl comes from the small feather tufts on top of its head, but these aren’t ears. A short-eared owl’s ears are located within its facial disc. Most of the calls of this brownish-speckled bird are bark-like or whine-like noises that are closer to resembling a coyote’s call than a stereotypical owl hoot.

Short-eared owls have a preference for open areas because they are birds of the prairie and this is the primary reason their numbers in Missouri are in decline. They have become one of the symbols for this region’s vanishing prairie habitat. They are secure in some parts of their North American range, but that’s not the case here in this state. In Missouri they have a state endangerment ranking of S2, which is the second-most severe degree of imperilment (next to S1). The definition of the S2 classification is imperilment because of low numbers of species or because there is an existing factor (or factors) that makes that species vulnerable to complete disappearance from the state.

Short-eared owls are winter visitors to most grassland areas in southern Missouri. Depending on weather, they begin arriving in this part of the state in late November and stay until late February or early March. During this time, their peak time of activity is often the period from late afternoon to dusk.

People can learn about other events at MDC’s Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center by calling 417-629-3434 or by going to