A star turn

Little owl chicks on a branch

The little owls took centre stage in the drama of Springwatch 2018. Having made only a brief appearance in 2017, the little owls were filmed taking a newly-fledged blackbird from a neighbouring nest.

You stand more chance of seeing a plump little owl out and about during the day than their bigger relatives the barn and tawny owls. Check out fence posts, old farm buildings and telegraph poles, as this is where they like to rest up between skipping across the grass in pursuit of juicy worms. Look out for a round little bird, smaller than a blackbird, with bright yellow eyes and a bit of a frown.

In 2017, eight little owl pairs were counted at Sherborne and more are hoped for in the future. Over the last year ranger Anna Field and the team have been helping them out. ‘We’ve put up eight new little owl boxes for them. We’re lucky enough to have some great places for owls – especially abandoned barns and big old trees. And the farmland here is alive with their favourite food of worms and beetles.’

Little owls like a nice dark place to nest – tree and wall cavities and even rabbit burrows, so the little owl boxes are tailor-made with long entrance tunnels and extra layers to keep out the light. Let’s hope they like them.

A few little owl facts…

  • Smallest owl in Britain
  • Stays with its mate for life
  • Often hunts on foot, running around after prey
  • Noisy – with many musical mews and yelps heard in the evening
  • Two to five very fluffy young in spring, which never move far away
  • Bob up and down when a bit anxious.