Athene noctua (*)
Athene noctua Scopoli, 1769
Annus I-(V) Historico-Naturalis p.22
The Little Owl (Athene noctua) is a bird which is resident in much of the temperate and warmer parts of Europe, Asia east to Korea, and north Africa. It is not native to Great Britain, but was first introduced in 1842, and is now naturalised there. It was also successfully introduced to the South Island of New Zealand in the early 20th century.
This species is a part of the larger grouping of owls known as typical owls, Strigidae, which contains most species of owl. The other grouping is the barn owls, Tytonidae.
There is a pale grey-brown Middle Eastern type known as 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 recent 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).
Distribution and status
There are 13 recognized races of Little owl spread across Europe and Asia. The Little Owl was sacred to the goddess Athena, from whom it gets the generic name.
Behaviour and ecology
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.
1. ^ Greenoak, Francesca (1997-10-31). British Birds: Their Names, Folklore and Literature. Christopher Helm Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0713648147.
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