The little owl is small with a large, broadly rounded head, long legs and short tail. It has a plump, compact body that is brown above, speckled white. Its underparts are a paler buff-grey with a gorget of heavy streaks on its upper breast. Its tail has four pale-brown bars. Bill is grey-brown. The little owl has white eyebrows over handsome yellow, oblique eyes, which give it a somewhat stern expression. The juvenile is similar to the adult but paler, plumage is more uniform with less streaking and spotting, it also lacks white spots on crown.
The commonest call is a sharp complaining “kee-aw”, falling in pitch and repeated. The song is a full and mellow, slightly drawn-out, low-pitched hoot with ending upward-inflected, repeated every 5-10 seconds. When alarmed it will bob up and down giving barking and hissing calls.
Simon Elliott, XC611865. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/611865.
It has been shown that the little owl can recognise familiar birds by voice.
The little owl will typically eat large insects, worms, spiders, amphibians, rodents and small birds.
The little owl is widely distributed across Europe. It is a bird of the open country but requires a habitat with abundant perches from where it can watch for prey. It prefers lowland agricultural habitats in the west and more arid rocky gorges in the east of Europe. It is mainly nocturnal. In the UK it is mostly a bird of the lowlands, usually below 500m. They are rarely found in Scotland, preferring to spend their time south of Hadrian’s wall. It can also be found across the entirety of Wales.
The little owl often takes up a squat posture when alarmed, bobbing in excitement. Its flight is fast and has bounding undulations, similar to a woodpecker. It can be hard to spot, as it flies close to the ground before swooping upwards to perch. They nest in tree holes and one parent can often be seen on sentry duty near the nest.
Little Owl on a post (Credit @bennicholson_photography IG)
Little Owl on a fence (Credit @mapphotosuk IG)
The little owl is also known as the owl of Minerva.
Males hold territories which they defend against intruders. The little owl is a cavity nester. A clutch of about 4 eggs is laid in spring. The male will bring food to the female. The chicks leave the nest at about seven weeks old.
The average lifespan for a little owl is around 3 years.
In Britain, the little owl is sedentary. The male usually remains in one territory for life.
The little owl is a common species with a wide range and large total population. It is therefore classed as a species of least concern.
Known collective nouns for a group of Little Owls are as follows:
General collective nouns for a group of Owls may also be used:
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The Eurasian Scops Owl is one of the smaller members of the Strigidae family of owls being smaller even than the Little Owl. It is one of the few European owls that leaves its breeding grounds and migrates south during the winter.
The Tawny Owl is a carnivorous night hunter common throughout Europe and western Asia with pockets found within the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent. It shouldn’t be confused with the Tawny Fish-owl of East Asia, the Tawny-bellied Screech owl of South America nor the Tawny-browed owl found on the eastern side of South America. The tawny owl is also occasionally referred to as the Brown Owl.
Unlike most owls, this medium sized bird is often seen hunting during daylight hours, mainly around dawn and dusk and particularly across farmland and in grassland, marsh and moorland areas.
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