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Feature Creature - Little owl

Credits: Amy Lewis

The sight of bird of prey can be awe-inspiring. Learn more about this feature creature, the LITTLE OWL. This diminutive bird was introduced to Britain by the Victorians around 150 years ago and has since settled across England, Wales and southern Scotland. As its name suggests, it is the smallest owl to be found in the UK.  

Fantastic facts:

 

*Size: about as long as a starling     *Lifespan: usually around 3 years, but sometimes up to 10 

 

*Favourite foods: earthworms, beetles, slugs and snails, sometimes even berries!

 

*Lifestyle: mostly nocturnal but seen often during the day     *Super power: amazing night vision 

 

*Latin name: Athene noctua (Athene = greek godess of wisdom, noctua = the sacred owl of the godess Minerva)  

 

But what are these tiny owls and what can they do? Little owls are:

 

Minibeast specialists

 

In much the same way as your local blackbird patrols your lawn, head cocked, eyes scanning for little movements in the earth, little owls like to hunt earthworms. After latching on to one end of a juicy worm, the owl leans backwards to tug it out of the ground, sometimes even toppling over when the meal finally pops loose!

 

Their small size also means that prey such as beetles, amphibians and very small mammals make perfect meals. Little owls can avoid competing with their larger cousins by eating these foods and are also able to hunt for it by day.

 

 

 

Aliens

 

Little owls are found across Europe, Asia and North Africa, but had never made it across to Britain until they were brought over by the Victorians. They have also recently been introduced to New Zealand too. They thrive in temperate regions and prefer areas of open parkland and mixed lowland fields in which to hunt. They have adapted well to life alongside humans, using buildings and nest boxes in which to raise their chicks when suitable tree holes or cliffs are not available.

 

These endearing owls even feature on a BBC programme all about non-native animals, presented by Bill Oddie. Click here to watch a clip from Bill Oddie's Top Ten Aliens and find out why he thinks they're a welcome addition to Britain's wildlife!

 

 

Perchers 

 

Little owls rarely move far away from their nesting territory and will often return to the same nest site year after year. They use favoured perching sites such as posts, bare tree branches and rooftops to survey the habitat around them and hunt for prey. They can sometimes be seen using these perches during the day, but you'll have to look carefully to spot them with their well camouflaged feathers!

 

Watch the video below to see a little owl perched on a tree branch at dusk and hear its high pitched call.

 

Credits: Little owl in tree by Neil Aldridge / Little owl on rock by Dave Appleton