Some Observations of Short-eared Owl, Asio flammeus, Ecology on Arctic Tundra, Yukon, Canada


  • Donald G. Reid Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 5T2
  • Frank I. Doyle Wildlife Dynamics Consulting Ltd., Smithers, British Columbia V0J 2N0
  • Alice J. Kenney Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4
  • Charles J. Krebs Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4



Short-eared Owl, Asio flammeus, Herschel Island, Komakuk Beach, nesting success, prey selection, raptor community, Herschel Island–Qikiqtaruk Territorial Park, Ivvavik National Park of Canada, Yukon


We investigated nesting behavior, food habits, and interspecific interactions of Short-eared Owls (Asio flammeus) within an arctic tundra raptor community on Herschel Island and Komakuk Beach, northern Yukon, Canada. Short-eared Owls were the least common nesting raptor. We found only three nests, all on Herschel Island. All nests were on relatively elevated sites with fairly substantial vegetative cover. All nests failed in the egg stage, from a combination of human disturbance and possible predation by Arctic Fox (Vulpes lagopus) or Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes). Short-eared Owls nested only in years when small rodent densities were at least 4 to 5 individuals per hectare in the spring. Short-eared Owls ate Northern Collared Lemmings (Dicrostonyx groenlandicus), Brown Lemmings (Lemmus trimucronatus), and Tundra Voles (Microtus oeconomus) almost exclusively, without clear selectivity. Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus) killed two adult Short-eared Owls. In northern Yukon, the Short-eared Owl remains an uncommon summer resident and uses the region as a migration route. Spring rodent densities and interspecific predation are prominent limiting factors, and human disturbance also limits nesting success. We recommend restricting access to most tundra areas during periods when the birds are mating, initiating nesting, and incubating eggs. We recommend that human infrastructure be designed so that it cannot support novel nesting (and therefore local range expansion) by other nesting raptors that compete with and prey on Short-earned Owls.