Little Owl (Athene noctua)
How to recognize Little Owls:
Little Owl is a small owl, about the size of a Blackbird with a broad, flattened head and short tail. Its weight ranges from 160 to 200 grams. Its color is dark brown at the upper part of its body with numerous light spots and whitish with dark brown spots at the lower part. Its iris is yellow. What is typical is the diversity of posture. When disturbed it often stretches its body in height and then presses to the ground. It flies in arches, mostly close to the ground, during the flight it quickly flutters its wings and sometimes glides.
Where do Little Owls live:
Little Owls occurs from the British Isles and the Iberian Peninsula to the Far East, including North Africa as well. They do not occur in the north of Europe and Asia. The most common habitat is an open landscape with sparse tree vegetation and human settlements - the so-called landscape park type.
The occurrence in the Czech Republic:
There was a catastrophic Little Owl loss in the Czech republic as well as in most nesting sites in Central and Western Europe. This situation led to a complete disappearance in some places. In the 1950s Little Owl inhabited all our lowlands and it was one of the most common owl species together with Tawny Owl, nowadays there are just several pairs of these birds left in few areas. The overall decline in recent decades exceeds 90%.
The causes of threats:
The causes of the strong decline are not entirely clear. There is a whole range of factors that act altogether and reinforce one another. The major influences were drastic changes in agricultural landscapes in our country and also the use of rodenticides – poison used to kill rodents. The negative impact of traffic and predators – especially the Stone Marten - are among the key negative factors nowadays.
Project Little Owl Monitoring in Moravia
What was the project about?
The project was primarily focused on detailed monitoring of Little Owls (Athene noctua) in Moravian-Silesian Region, Zlin Region and Olomouc Region. The area of interest was specified exactly according to the administrative territory of municipalities with extended powers. The monitoring consisted of sound recordings on selected sites and their subsequent computer analysis. Recordings of the territorial male owls were also used during monitoring. We counted with te installation of photo traos and subsequent analysis of the shots in places where the Little Owl would be identified by voice. We also intended to monitor owls using the public by placing the information leaflet at the local municipal authorities or by publication in local newsletters, with a request for information on the possible occurrence of this owl species. The territory in question had a range of 6.294 km2.
Identification of suitable sites for nesting was a part of the Little Owl monitoring in the area of interest. At these localities, appropriate and safe nesting box had been placed subsequently. Their production was also part of the project, it was a total of 300 pieces of nest boxes. Thanks to the project, we have also determined the most appropriate site for the repatriation of the Little Owl chicks bred in captivity. The project implementer - Bartošovice Rescue Station has many years of experience and positive results with breeding in captivity and repatriation of the Little Owl.
The project was aimed at gathering scientific data and practical protection of the species. Its results will serve as a basis for preparing rescue program, which this rare owl undoubtedly deserves.
A brief summary of the results of the project "Little Owl Monitoring in Moravia".
Mapping the habitat of Little Owl was carried out in the framework of the project within an area of 6894 km2. There were several methods used for the monitoring, the basic one was installation of the voice recorders. These recorders were placed into 631 locations in total. Next method was a combination of playing a territorial voice of Little Owl male and physical monitoring. General public was also, in an appropriate way, involved in the monitoring, however, all the information provided by those sources was negative. In selected areas, where the Little Owl occurence had been proven, we installed phototraps. Little Owl was only confirmed in 15 locations, and there was only one location, where there was demonstrably recorded successful nesting-upbringing of their chicks. This balance is very alarming.
The project also produced 300 pieces of nestboxes for owls, 4 types. 237 pieces were placed into suitable locations. These locations had been discussed with the owners of selected properties beforehand. Along with these we also discussed measures eliminating any possible negative impact on the Little Owls, or agreed to eliminate potential traps, grass mowing regimes etc.
The project was concluded with international participation. In this conference Little Owl population in the Czech Republic and the possibility of its restiration and stabilization have been assessed in detail. There were reports dealing with the condition of the Little Owl population in neighboring countries (Poland, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Slovakia). At the end of the conference the participants emphasized the necessity of a rescue plan for this owl species in the Czech Republic.