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Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 1:21 EDT

Little Owl

The Little Owl (Athene noctua) is a member of the owl family Strigidae. It is resident in much of the temperate and warmer parts of Europe, Asia east to Korea, and North Africa. It is found in open country such as mixed farmland and parkland. It is not native to Great Britain, but was introduced in the 19th century, and is now naturalized there.

The Little Owl is a small owl, 9 to 11.5 inches in length. 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.

There is a pale grey-brown Middle Eastern type known as The Syrian Little Owl, or A. n. lilith. Other forms include another pale race, the North African A. n. desertae, and two intermediate subspecies, A. n. indigena of southeast Europe and Asia Minor, and A. n. bactriana of central Asia.

It takes prey such as insects, earthworms and amphibians. It is partly diurnal and often perches prominently. It usually nests in holes in trees or rocks, laying 3-5 eggs which are incubated by the female for 28-29 days, with a further 26 days to fledging.

The Little Owl was sacred to the goddess Athena, from whom it gets the generic name.

Little Owl