Little Owl

Athene noctua

Species Information

Meet Owen and Olivia at your next visit, the appropriately named ‘little’ owls!

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Little owls are native throughout mainland Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa. They have also been introduced and are resident in the UK and New Zealand. They commonly inhabit farmland, parklands, and woodlands.

This tiny owl is only 22cm tall and weighs around 150g on average. Their plump and compact body is covered in a greyish-brown plumage, spotted with white marks. They have a V-shaped marking on the back of the head. This mimics eyes to prevent and deter predation from behind, especially when they are sleeping!

These opportunistic owls have been recorded feeding on as many as 544 different species, including mammals, herptiles, birds, fish and insects. They even catch prey as heavy as themselves! With such large portions, they sometimes dig holes to store their food.

Up to 15 years.

Little owls are adaptive hunters, with various techniques to suit to catching their prey. For example, they will hop across the ground to chase prey, can catch terrestrial prey on the floor whilst flying, and even catch airborne prey in mid-air. They are crepuscular, most active during dawn and dusk.

The monogamous pair typically breed between March and August. They can lay up to 12, but on average 3 eggs, which are incubated for around 28 days.

Least Concern, but their populations are declining due to pesticides and decreases in the availability of favoured hunting habitat due to agricultural changes.

Little owls take dust baths to clean their plumage, they have even been observed bathing in chimney smoke!