Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus 短耳鴞

Category I. Rare winter visitor and very rare spring migrant, though almost certainly overlooked.


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May 2017, James Kwok.

37-38 cm. A medium-sized owl with a large rounded head, very short ear tufts (often flattened and difficult to see), streaked underparts, short feathered legs and yellow eyes. Both sexes have a prominent facial disc with dark patches around the eyes and a pale X-shaped pattern between the eyes.

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Dec. 2019, Roman Lo.

The very short ear tufts are visible on this bird, as are the yellowish-brown upperparts that are heavily streaked blackish and brown. The underparts are buff with dark streaks which are much heavier on the breast than on the belly. In flight, the underwing is very pale and shows a single black carpal mark and two narrow black bands on the primary tips; the upperwing has a narrow white trailing edge.


None reported in HK. However, may give a short slightly squeaky 'chew' or a longer modulated 'waooao' call that trails off somewhat.


Most records are from the Deep Bay area at Mai Po and Tai Shang Wai. There are also isolated records at Long Valley and on Lantau, Lamma and the Soko Islands. The favoured habitat is reedbeds, grassy bunds, stands of grass or paddy, and other low vegetation in open areas on the edge of fishponds and gei wai. The Lantau record was from an undeveloped part of the airport at Chek Lap Kok.


There are 13 records of single birds in two periods: 13 November to 30 January and 30 March to 6 April. One trapped at Mai Po on 13 November 1988 during an overnight ringing session is considered the only acceptable record up to 1998 (Carey et al. 2001). This and subsequent records in the years 2000, 2005 and 2014-2020 are listed below by site. All are on late autumn or winter dates apart from three individuals at Tai Sang Wai in spring.

Mai Po: on 13 November 1988, 30 January 2005, 21 December 2014, 21 January 2015 (presumably the same over-wintering individual), and 8 December 2020.

Tai Sang Wai: on 4-5 April 2015, 30 March 2016, 30 December 2016, and 6 April 2017.

Lut Chau: on 17 December 2019 (found injured, taken into care and later released).

Long Valley: on 4 December 2016.

Sok Kwu Wan, Lamma: on 18 December 2014 (in weak condition and died the same day).

Chek Lap Kok: on 24 November 2000.

Soko Islands: on 4 December 2018.


Secretive; occasionally flushed from cover by day and seen in flight, but there are no daytime records of birds hunting low over marshes or perched in the open, as elsewhere in the range, and no food items are known.


Polytypic, with eleven subspecies recognised, including the nominate in North America and Eurasia. Breeds widely in temperate and boreal regions of North America and Eurasia and is also locally distributed in South America and on some Caribbean and Pacific islands. East Asian breeders (nominate subspecies) winter mainly in Japan, Korea, and central and eastern China, and also occasionally further south including the coast of southern China (Konig & Weick 2008).


IUCN: Least Concern. Population decreasing.


Carey, G. J., M. L. Chalmers, D. A. Diskin, P. R. Kennerley, P. J. Leader, M. R. Leven, R. W. Lewthwaite, D. S. Melville, M. Turnbull and L. Young (2001). The Avifauna of Hong Kong. Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, Hong Kong.

Konig, C. and F. Weick (2008). Owls of the World (2nd ed). Christopher Helm, London.

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