“Whoa, who peed in your cornflakes?" (Photo courtesy of Nature's Home reader, Bryn Ditheridge)

This beautiful little owl’s expression neatly summarises what lots of us are feeling at the moment when we flick to the news – very confused, irritable and quite frankly, extremely fed up. Safe in the comfort of a tree hollow, Bryn’s subject doesn’t look all that impressed to be caught on film peeking through the tree leaves. Perhaps it’s trying to intimidate the lens, but between you and me its attempt at appearing menacing with ruffled feathers and jagged brow just looks ridiculously adorable.  

Introduced to the UK in the 19th century, these owls can be seen fluttering across the English and Welsh countryside, and very occasionally spotted in Scotland. They prefer the cover of lowland farmland, with plenty of hedgerows and copses to nest in, or parkland and orchards where they can hunt for small birds, mammals, worms and insects such as beetles. Our grumpy little photo of the week star was snapped its usual tree crevice in Norfolk; the species are most commonly found in central, south eastern and southern England, as well as the Welsh borders and Ramsey Island.

As seen in this photo, little owls can be seen in daylight perched on a tree branch or on telegraph poles, rocks and ledges. These are charismatic and distinguishable birds of prey, their speckled white/cream and brown feathers blending into dappled sunlight and textured branches. Distinctive head-bobbing will commence if they feel alarmed, and in flight they can be noticed by rapid wingbeats with a slight undulation, much like the flight pattern of woodpeckers.

Striking yellow eyes signify that they are diurnal and prefer to hunt during daylight hours. Rather than having round eyes like humans, owl eyes have a more tube-like form, allowing more light in for greater visibility when light levels are low. This shape restricts movement, and as such they must turn their whole heads to see their peripherals and can turn heads up to 270 degrees. Their retina cells are actually more similar to that of diurnal raptors than owls, and juveniles are able to focus on an object from as little as 14 days old.

It is thought that the little owl population in the UK is declining, sadly, like much of our wildlife seems to be. It is thought numbers have reduced by around 24% between 1995 and 2008.



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