Little owl peering out of a tree. By Andrew Swinbank |
Little owl peering out of a tree. By Andrew Swinbank |

About little owls.

It is the smallest owl species in the United Kingdom, even though there are smaller species in the rest of the world. The pigmy owl would be an example.

Despite being a very well known bird in Great Britain, the little owl is not autochthonous of this region. It was introduced by humans in 1874.

These birds always live in tree holes where they build their nests, even though they have no problem using the nest-boxes left by humans in their surroundings.

Little owls are monogamous birds for life and they tend to remain in the same territory all their lives. They stay together until one of the individuals dies.

The egg-laying happens between the end of March and the beginning of April and each female lays 2-5 eggs.

They are mainly nocturnal, even though it is not unusual to see them during the day too. They stay perched motionless on posts, fences and trees, always in open spaces, on the look-out for prey.

Like all owls, little owls make unique sounds to communicate with one another. The most common is a melodic sound very similar to a cat’s meowing, often difficult to differentiate.

Having both eyes in the front helps them focus on their prey and estimate the distance from it (stereoscopic vision). In order to pinpoint the distance more accurately, they make odd head movements to get the maximum number of angles possible.

Unlike many other owls, little owls don’t have the characteristic fear tufts, which helps distinguish them from other similar species.

They have great adaptive capacity to different environments, from farms and green areas to open forests and deserts.

They are quite territorial animals and males are the ones in charge of defending these territories from other individuals.

When the chicks are born, the female incubates them while the male goes hunting for food. When they are more developed, both parents hunt. The young little owls leave the nest when they are 7 weeks old.

Little owl on post. By Steven Ward |
Little owl on post. By Steven Ward |
Little owlLeast concern
Athene noctua22 cm (8.7 in)
Strigidae180 gr (6.3 oz)
Strigiformes4 years in the wild (they can live up to 15)
Aves28-29 days of incubation
Estimated to be 5 – 10 millions of individualsThey hunt, basically little rodents and large invertebrates, but also little birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, mollusks and crustacean.
They live in holes in trees or cavities in open space areas.Southern half of Europe, Central Asia and North of Africa.

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