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Little Owl

Athene noctua

This is a small owl (usually 22cm in length; wingspan of 56cm) weighing around 180g. Have flat heads, short plump bodies, yellow eyes and short tails. They are greyish-brown in colour with white spots, streaks and bars.

Their underparts are white and streaked darker colours. They have a high pitched “kiew kiew” call but can extend to whistles as well.

Little Owl


They are a erritorial, monogamous, partially diurnal species. Due to their hunting at dawn and dusk, they can regularly be seen during the day, normally perched on a telegraph pole of fence post. Very vocal at night time so can regularly be heard calling in the early evenings.

When alarmed, they bob their head up and down. Pairs breed between March and August, with nests normally made in hollow trees.

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UK Status

Little Owls were introduced to the UK in the 19th century by wealthy landowners as a welcome addition to our native wildlife. There were a number of releases throughout the country, and the populations in England have managed to establish well even today, with the greatest numbers in the south-east.

Unlike most introduced species, Little owls seem to have no detrimental effect on UK ecology so are accepted as part of UK wildlife.

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Habitat loss and changes in agricultural practices has impacted European populations dramatically. There is some evidence that even the UK population is in steady decline.


Widespread throughout Europe, North Africa and Asia. It was introduced to the UK in the 19th century, before then it was only and occasional visitor.


Found in a range of habitats, but shows preference to open countryside such as agricultural land with trees and hedgerows, orchards, parks and gardens.


Insects and earthworms, although will take small mammals, amphibian, reptiles and other birds.

Wildwood inside information

Wildwood has one Little Owl called Norma Jean, who is an important member of our flying team.

Family facts
  • UK’s smallest owl.
  • Can make up over 20 different vocalisations.
  • In Greek culture, little owls had a strong association with the goddess Athena, who was the goddess of night.
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