The Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) is a widespread raptor whose abundance and distribution fluctuates in response to the varying amplitudes of its prey, which are predominately microtines. Previous efforts to describe the seasonal movements of Short-eared Owls have been hindered by few band recoveries and the species' cryptic and irruptive behavior. We attached satellite transmitters to adult Short-eared Owls at breeding areas in western and interior Alaska in June 2009 and July 2010, and tracked their movements for up to 19 mo. Owls initiated long-distance southward movements from Alaska and most followed a corridor east of the Rocky Mountains into the Prairie provinces and Great Plains states. Four owls followed a coastal route west of the Rocky Mountains, including one owl that crossed the Gulf of Alaska. Completed autumn migration distances ranged from 3205–6886 km (mean = 4722 ± 1156 km [SD]). Wintering areas spanned 21° of latitude from central Montana to southern Texas, and 24° of longitude from central California to western Kansas. Subsequent seasonal migrations were generally northward in spring and southward in autumn; these movements were comparatively short-distance (mean = 767.5 ± 517.4 km [SD]) and the owls exhibited low site fidelity. The Short-eared Owls we tracked from two relatively local breeding areas in Alaska used a patchwork of diverse open habitats across a large area of North America, which highlights that effective conservation of this species requires a collaborative, continental-scale focus.
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Vol. 51 • No. 2