Little Owl (Athene Noctua)

Little Owl (Athene)

Little Owl (Athene Noctua)

The Little owl (Athene noctua) is a small owl, usually 22 centimetres (8.7 in) tall with a wingspan of 56 centimetres (22 in) for both sexes, and weighs about 180 grams (6.3 oz), which inhabits much of the temperate and warmer parts of Europe, Asia east to Korea, and north Africa. It was also successfully introduced to the South Island of New Zealand in the early 20th century. This species is among the larger grouping of owls that is known as typical owls, Strigidae, which contains most species of owl. The other grouping is the barn owls, Tytonidae.

The little owl was sacred to the goddess Athena, from whom it gets the generic name and is one of the most widely-distributed owls, due to its adaptability to human settlements and small size. This makes it among the world’s most populous owl species. The Little Owl is a sedentary species which is found in open country such as mixed farmland and parkland and has an average life expectancy of three years . It takes prey such as insects, earthworms, amphibians, but also small birds and mammals. It can attack birds of considerable size like game birds. It is partly diurnal and often perches boldly and prominently during the day.

It becomes more vocal in nights as the breeding season approaches. Nest location varies based on the habitat, nests being found in holes in trees, rocks, cliffs, river banks, walls, buildings etc. It lays 3-5 eggs which are incubated by the female for 28–29 days, with a further 26 days to fledging. Little Owls will also nest in buildings, both abandoned and those fitted with custom owl nest boxes. If living in an area with a large amount of human activity, little owls may grow used to man and will remain on their perch, often in full view, while humans are around

The adult little owl of the most widespread form, the nominate A. n. noctua, is white-speckled brown above, and brown-streaked white below. It has a large head, long legs, and yellow eyes, and its white “eyebrows” give it a stern expression. This species has a bounding flight like a woodpecker. Juveniles are duller, and lack the adult’s white crown spots. The call is a querulous kee-ik. There is also a pale grey-brown Middle Eastern type known as the Syrian little owl (A. n. lilith). Other forms include another pale race, the north African A. n. desertae, and three intermediate subspecies, A. n. indigena of southeast Europe and Asia Minor, A. n. glaux in north Africa and southwest Asia, and A. n. bactriana of central Asia. A 2009 paper in the ornithological journal Dutch Birding (vol. 31: 35-37, 2009) has advocated splitting the southeastern races as a separate species, Lilith’s owl (Athene glaux), with subspecies A. g. glaux, A. g. indigena, and A. g. lilith.

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