The Sacred Little Owl

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Little Owl (Athene noctua)

The Little Owl is the most abundant of the owls we have here, and indeed is probably one of the most numerous in the world. They are small, unassuming, and adapt easily to human settlements. Did I mention that they are also Mrs. HibernoManchegos favourite bird? Well it would seem that they were also the favourite of the Greek goddess Athena who considered them sacred, hence the generic name, Athene, for the 13 recognised species of the Little Owl. The denominate species, however, is the most abundant.
They range from western Europe all the way across Asia to China and also parts of north Africa and the middle East such as Saudi Arabia. Their territory is normally mixed farmland and parkland. Here in la Mancha if you look at any old buildings or pile of rocks there is a high chance of seeing them as they watch for prey from a prominent lookout perch. Their prey normally consists of amphibians, worms and insects, however they can also kill small mammals and birds.

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Little Owl (Athene noctua) on a rockpile
For their size, they can be quite cocky allowing you to stop the car not too far away from them. If you get too close they can start bobbing up and down and from side to side which is their distress signal before flying off. It´s this bobbing action that enamours them to my wife. However if you stay just outside that zone they will calmly scrutinise you with their stern expression and even take their eyes off you to scan their hunting area.

So, keep your eyes on those rockpiles and old buildings. As you can see from the shot above it´s not that easy to spot them, but eventually you get an eye for those small round shapes amongst the jagged rocks. Just remember, if you’re in the car and driving, keep one eye on the road as well.

Go birding in La Mancha, Spain with Oretani Wildlife

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