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Highlighted grasslands bird: short- eared owl (asio flammeus)

PhotoC.Del Aguila

Short-eared owl (asio flammeus): grasslands good health indicator.

 Short-eared owl  is a magnificent owl of pasture, of average size (38cm) and  yellow ochrecoloration , clearer in the adult males, but that always presents this dark facial disc that surrounds its eminent yellow eyes and forms its captivating look. It is silent for nature, but it can produce a bark from it nest, a series of brief you notice when it does his territorial call or also plaudits of wings during the courtship. Only visible to the late afternoon, when in soft flights to evenness of the pasture it looks for mice or alternative insects and minor birds. He pairs at the end of the winter or at the beginning of the spring and his couple supports until the pigeons manage to free and to fly away. They do nest on the soil,among the high pastures, where they place 6 to 7 eggs, which are incubated only by the female by less than 30 days, while the macho takes charge hunting and bringing the food over. This beautiful bird lives in almost the whole planet, and it is believed that it has nomadic habits on having followed the populations of rodents.

For its extensive distribution, its population is not threatened, but the loss of habitat has generated local extinction in good part of our Pampas, as W.H Hudson  was announcing it early. Hudson in his classic work Birds of del plata . “' Previously the Lechuzón Campestre was very common throughout in the pampas, where the rustic indigenous pastures were providing the refuge and the conditions adapted for it. When later this rustic vegetation yielded to the pastures and perishable, introduced cloversthis owl disappeared in the country '. 

Birds as biondicator of grassland health
The birds are sensitive to the environmental changes. It presence or absence or population size are proved  indicators of the health of the ecosystems. The diversity of birds of a certain site offers rapid information about it value of conservation and facilitates the elaboration of environmental reports. The birds give large environmental services: are insects predator and eliminates pests,, they pollinate and consume fruits of vegetable contributing to their dispersion.
' The Lechuzón Campestre is also a grassland health bioindicator because during the reproductive cycle, a critical period of time for any species, selects high pastures as habitat ', said Dr. Mariano Codesido (1) , and continues: ' Actually it puts its nest in the base of the bushes or on squashed bushes, but always hidden well and surrounded of high pasture, aspect that possibly increases it offspring survival on having reduced the predation '.

Grassland doctors and guardians
A Lechuzón Campestre happy ending tale is what Juan Martin Mastropaolo (2) led, who last june 20 received a neighbor who had found a wounded lechuzón.“With care I took it to the Guard of the Faculty of Veterinary (National University of the Littoral - Esperanza) to be able to determine what type of injury it had. There, Dra. Sandra Pepinos and her collaborators began it recovery with veterinary treatment ' told Martin.



Then, when it began to fly, Mastropaolo moved and liberated it in a field to 300 km north of Esperanza, a zone of Subsouthern pastures from where the specimen would have come. And there it lives from last August.  In the zone that I liberated it there are many species as a consecuence of good health of the field. It is a spectacular animal and I believe that with effort and dedication this kind of action can be done. These liberations with happy ending are exciting ', Martin concludes.

1.Agroecosystems biodiversity studies group member (GEBA), Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Buenos Aires.

2. Guardafauna Honorario Esperanza city, Provincia de Santa Fe, since 1992.