Little Owl Athene noctua   [Scopoli, 1769]

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Date created: 23-January-2017

Order: Strigiformes Family: Strigidae
BTO Codes: LO, LITOW EURING No: 7570
Number in Britain: 5700 Pairs (Summer)
Conservation Status:
UK: Not Assessed
European: Least Concern
Global: Least Concern (Details)
Status in UK: (C1)  Introduced Breeder
Subspecies: vidalii recorded in Britain (of 13 subsp. in the world)
Length: 22 cm Wingspan: 56 cm Weight: M/F: 180 g    
Scientific name from: after Pallas Athene, Greek goddess of wisdom and arts and L.: noctua an owl sacred to the goddess Minerva
World Distribution: Europe, c&s Asia, n&c Africa
Habitat: Steppe, farmland, towns, open woodland
Diet: Mostly small mammals and birds, large invertebrates (e.g. beetles, crickets, worms), nocturnal
TitBit: This diminutive owl (dedicated to Pallas Athene, Greek goddess of wisdom) feeds on earthworms, is occasionally observed to fall over backwards when unexpectedly successful in trying to extract large individuals from the ground.  
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Identification Tips:
  Images from IBC or search flickr
  Videos from IBC
  Sound from xeno-canto
Crossley ID photos

Population and Distribution

Population Trend: BirdTrends   
Regional Trends: England   English Regions
Distribution: Atlas Mapstore   
British Population Size:
    Summer: 5700 Pairs in 2009
    First Record: Greater London, 1758 [Fossil evidence from
    First Breeding Record: Introduced Kent 1879
    Latest Survey: Newson, S.E. et al. (2008) Journal of Applied Ecology 45:1330-1338
    Conservation Status:
   Previous Assessments: 2009-2014 Not Assessed     2002-2007 Not Assessed     1996-2001 Not Assessed  
   Races of Concern:
Habitat Occupancy (in the Breeding Season):
    Most frequent in: Pasture Farmland
    Also common in: Arable Farmland
    And found in: Villages
Relative Frequency in Each Habitat:
European Population Size:
    Summer: 550 thousand to 1.2 million pairs (of which c. 1 % breed in Britain)
Population Assesment from Birds in Europe
Distribution in Europe mapped by the EBCC Atlas
Listed on the Appendices/Schedules of: Bern(III), CITES(II)
Survey Results: Results from BirdTrack

Breeding and Survival

Egg Size: 34 x 29 mm Egg Weight: 15.6 g (of which 7 % is shell)
Number of Nest Records: 70   (more would be welcome!)
Clutch Size: 3 - 4 eggs 3.47 ± 0.81 (2 - 6) N = 571
Incubation: 29- 31 days 29.83 ± 2.71 (25.5 - 35.5) N = 571   by the: Female
Fledging: 37 - 40days 37.28 ± 3.70 (30 - 42.5) N = 1074 as: Altricial, downy
British Trust for Ornithology (2005) Nest Record Scheme data
First Clutches Laid: 23 Apr (11 Apr - 8 May)
Number of Broods: 1(2)
See trends in Breeding Productivity
Number Ringed: Annual Totals
Adult Survival: 0.650 ± 0.058       
Juvenile Survival: 0.300 (in First-Year)  
Age at First Breeding: 1 year Typical Lifespan: 3 years
Maximum Age from Ringing: 10 years 11 months 26 days (set in 2009)
Read a summary of Ringing Recoveries


Ring Size: E
Wing Length Sexually dimorphic (male much larger than female)
Male: Insufficient Data
Female: 166.6 ± 6.8 160 - 174 mm, N =78
Weight Sexually dimorphic (male much larger than female)
Male: Insufficient Data
Female: 193.0 ± 22.27 154.0 - 224.0 g , N =65
British Trust for Ornithology (2005) Ringing Scheme data

Other Names

Gaelic: Comhachag-bheag Welsh: Tylluan Fach
Danish: Kirkeugle Dutch: Steenuil
Finnish: Minervanpöllö French: Chevêche d'Athéna
German: Steinkauz Hungarian: Kuvik
Icelandic: Kattugla Irish: Ulchabhán Beag
Italian: Civetta Norwegian: Kirkeugle
Polish: Pójdzka zwyczajna Portuguese: Mocho-galego
Spanish: Mochuelo común Swedish: Minervauggla

For More Information...

Books and Monographs:
   van Nieuwenhuyse, D. et al. 2008 The little owl: conservation, ecology & behaviour Cambridge University Press [598.712 NIE]
   Genot, J-C. & Nieuwehuyse, D. v. 2002 BWP Update 4:35-63
   Hibbert-Ware, A. 1938 Report of the Little Owl Food Enquiry 1936-37 Witherby, London [598.71 HIB]
Links from
See Also:
Google Scholar search for scientific papers
Wikipedia entry
HBW account (subscription required)
BirdLife species page
Recent sightings and information from BirdGuides