Thursday, 17 March 2011
The Little Owl is Britains smallest owl, about the size of a Starling. Small and plump with a rather flat head and short tail with heavily spotted wings and greyish-brown upperparts and a heavily streaked pale breast. The eyes are black with vivid yellow irises which stare from underneath white eye-brows and give the bird a fierce expression.
The bird can be seen in daylight as it perches in the open on a telegraph pole, branch or even a rock, but it hunts mainly from dusk until midnight and then again just before dawn. It feeds mainly on small mammals, insects and invertebrates; mammals include shrews and voles, insects include beetles and adult moths and it regularly feeds on earthworms.
The Little Owl was introduced to Britain from Europe in the 19th century. Two of these schemes were successful, one in Northamptonshire and the other in Kent. From these introduction schemes they gradually colonised southern Britain and only bred in Scotland for the first time in 1978. They do not breed in Ireland, although vagrant birds have been seen there. The Little Owl also breeds in central and southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia. There are now between 6,000-12,000 pairs in Britain, although this population does fluctuate and has no clear trend.