Make Our Little Owls Count!

My name is Emily Joáchim and I would like to welcome you to the Hawk and Owl Trust’s new UK Little Owl Count website! I have been studying Little Owls since 2008, so it may come as no surprise for me to admit that I am Little Owl obsessed, but I know that the UK’s smallest owl has many other fans.

Me with a baby little owl. Photo © Catherine Cotton
Emily with a baby little owl. Photo © Catherine Cotton

Over the years, I have encountered so many lovely people who have shared their Little Owl stories with me. I never tire of hearing delightful tales of people avidly watching their enchanting Little Owls in their garden, from a window at work or on a fencepost along their regular walking route, but the stories are not always cheerful. A question that has repeatedly been posed to me by concerned landowners is ‘Where have my Little Owls gone?’

These landowners are right to be concerned by the loss of their owls as the UK’s Little Owl population appears to be in trouble. Results from the BTO-run Common Bird Census and its replacement, the Breeding Bird Survey indicate that our Little Owl population has declined by 64%1 since 1962 and there has been an 11% contraction in this species’ range2 between Bird Atlas 1968-72 and Bird Atlas 1988-91. The current UK Little Owl population estimate is 5,700 pairs3, which is 18.6% lower than the previous estimate of 7,000 pairs in 2000.

Presently, we do not know why our Little Owl population appears to be declining. Also, we should not assume that this species is declining across its full range, which extends across England, Wales and the Scottish Borders. As the Little Owl is predominantly nocturnal, it is possible that this species has been under-recorded in some regions as most surveys are conducted during daylight hours, which is not ideal for monitoring for Little Owls.

I have worked with the Hawk and Owl Trust as part of the launch team for this exciting new UK Little Owl Count project. We want this website to enthuse and encourage keen and amateur birders and nature lovers to go out and find their local Little Owls and report their sightings on this website. We have provided photos, videos, useful information and links about Little Owls as guidance and it would be fantastic if more people look for owls at dawn and dusk and at different times of the year. We have added a map on the sightings report page so you move the marker to the exact location of your Little Owl. All we need now is your help!

The submitted sightings data will be used to look at the distribution of the Little Owl across the UK and to develop much needed future Little Owl surveys.

Now that the launch phase has passed my role in the project will be to concentrate on managing and understanding the statistical data generated which will assist further research into Little Owls.  However, I hope to contribute reports and updates as the project progresses.

We would love for you to get in touch with photos and tales of your Little Owl sightings and we will publish our favourites. So please come back and visit this Blog!

  1. Data Source: British Trust for Ornithology BTO
  2. Data source: British Trust for Ornithology BTO
  3. Data source: British Trust for Ornithology BTO

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