|Wintering Short-eared Owl, by Amy Lewis|
Short-eared Owls have a reputation for being wanderers, avian nomads that seek out the opportunities offered by prey populations whose numbers can change dramatically from one year to the next. This nomadic behaviour is not restricted to the autumn and winter but can also be seen in breeding birds. The numbers breeding on favoured moorland sites across northern Britain may vary considerably between years as the birds respond to the availability of small mammal prey, particularly Field (or Short-tailed) Voles.
Birds that breed on our moorland will move to lower ground come autumn, favouring downland, rough grazing land and coastal marshes, where they may mix with individuals that have arrived from further afield. Some of our breeding Short-eared Owls will themselves make a sea-crossing, choosing to winter in France and Spain, again highlighting the fluid nature of this wandering owl.