Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Aves / Strigiformes / Strigidae / Athene / Species
Athene noctua - Little owl (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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INFORMATION AVAILABLE

GENERAL & REFERENCES

EXTERNAL APPEARANCES

REPRODUCTION

BEHAVIOUR

NATURAL DIET

RANGE & HABITAT

CONSERVATION

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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Steenuil (Dutch)
  • Chevêche d'Athéna (French)
  • Steinkauz (German)
  • Civetta (Italian)
  • Mochuelo común (Spanish)
  • Minervauggla (Swedish)

Names for newly-hatched

Chick

Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases

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References

Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B162, B163, B164, B191

Aviculture references:

ORGANISATIONS
(UK Contacts)

ELECTRONIC LIBRARY
(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

  • Birds of Prey

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

  • Birds of Prey

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Aviculture Information

Notes

 
Individual Techniques linked in Wildpro

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length
  • 21-23cm (B162); 23-27.5cm (B164).
  • Wingspan: 54-58cm (B162).
Adult weight General --
Male 140-190g (B162).
Female 150-220g (B162).
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate --

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Head

Adult Bill Male --
Variations (If present) --
Eyes Male Yellow (B162, B164).
Variations(If present) --
Juvenile Bill --
Eyes (Iris) --

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Legs

Adult Male White feathering, initially with pink-buff tinge. (B164, B191).
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile --

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Plumage

Adult Male Summary:
  • Head: brown with pale streaks, hindneck white "V" mark , from behind ear on either side to centre of neck. Facial disk poorly developed, no distinct ruff surrounding. White ring around eyes, Eyebrows: white, oblique, Chin white.
  • Upperparts: brown (variously described as grey-brown, rufous-brown, chocolate brown, olive-brown or ochre-buff) with white spotting.
  • Underparts: white (cream-buff initially with new plumage) with heavy brown streaking.
  • Wings: brown with narrow white bars.
  • Tail: brown with white/cream-buff barring.

(B162, B164, B191)

Variations (If present) Female:
  • Face: usually less white (B191).

Geographical variation:

  • Paler forms in Middle East and North Africa (B164).
Juvenile Duller; dark grey-brown with less distinct spots than adult. Crown lacks spots (B164, B191).

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

  • Semi-altricial (B163, B191).
  • First down short, dense, white initially, becoming grey with second down (B191).

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Reproduction

Reproductive Season

Time of year North-west Europe: egg laying starts late March/early April (B162).
No. of Clutches One, rarely two (B162, B191)

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Nest placement and structure

  • Hole in tree (normal).
  • Hole in building, wall or in ground (e.g. rabbit burrow).
  • Readily use nest boxes.

(B162, B163, B164, B191)

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average 2-5 (B162, B163).
Range 1-7 (B162, B163).
Egg description White, smooth but not glossy, short sub-elliptical. Size: 36x30mm (B162, B163, B191).

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Incubation

Usually 27-28 days, range 23-35 days (B162).

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Hatching

Asynchronous/nearly synchronous (B191).

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Fledging

Usually 30-35 days, but exceptionally up to 43 days (B162); 30-35 days (B163).

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Sexual Maturity

Males One year (B191).
Females One year (B191).

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Behaviour

Feeding Behaviour

Adults
  • Hunt from perch, dropping onto prey.
  • Hunt on ground for e.g. beetles, earthworms.
  • Occasionally hover.
  • Take insects on wing.

(B162, B163)

Newly-hatched --

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Parental Behaviour

Nest-building Not applicable (B163); female may make shallow scrape (B191).
Incubation By female (B163, B191).
Newly-hatched Tended by female, brooded when small. Male brings food (B163, B191).
Juveniles

Fed by both parents for up to one month after fledging (B163, B191).

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Social Behaviour

Intra-specific
  • Solitary or in pairs.
  • Mostly territorial all year.
  • Some move away from breeding territory during winter.

(B162, B163)

Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour

Monogamous. Long periods of mutual preening (B162, B163, B191).

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Predation in Wild

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Activity Patterns

Often on exposed perch (e.g. telephone poles) in daytime (B164).
Circadian
  • Partially diurnal.
  • Hunting mainly crepuscular/nocturnal: dusk to midnight, two hour break then continuing until dawn.
  • Rarely hunt in day.

(B162, B164)

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Natural Diet

Adults

  • Insects (e.g. beetles, crickets, earwigs), and earthworms.
  • Small mammals and birds, reptiles, amphibians.

(B162, B163, B164)

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Newly-hatched

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Normal Europe, Asia and North Africa (B163).

Western Palearctic, also "Beyond west Palearctic, breeding extends locally south of west Palearctic border in Africa, and from Ethiopia and Somalia north-east and east across central Asia to northern China." (B162)

Movements:

  • Resident.
  • Some dispersal of first-year birds: most settle within 20km.
  • Short dispersals by adults sometimes in autumn and winter.

(B162, B163, B164)

Occasional and Accidental Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Malta, Canary Islands (B162).
Introduced

Britain (1870's). New Zealand (B162, B163, B164).

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Habitat

  • Variable: open areas with trees, woodland edges
  • Also steppe, semi-desert, deserts.
  • In Britain: agricultural with trees and buildings, parkland with old orchards, drained fenlands with e,g, pollarded willows.
  • Marginal habitats including industrial waste ground, sand dunes, edge of moorland, old quarries, seacliffs, inshore islands.

(B162, B163, B164)

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Conservation

Intraspecific variation

Considerable clinal geographical variation in colouration, and in size of wing, tail, tarsus (B162).

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Conservation Status

Wild Population -
(Importance)

Population decreased in Britain and in many countries in Europe over last few decades (B162).

General Legislation --
CITES listing --
Red-data book listing --
Threats Habitat changes, particularly loss of nest sites, effect of pesticides reducing insect food availability, and road traffic accident mortality (B162).

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Captive Populations

--

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Trade

--

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