In May 2011 BBC Wildlife ran a feature on little owls based on Reading University PhD student Emily Joachim's research into the species. Click on the video above to enjoy some stunning footage from her study. Below, Emily tells us more...
Nestbox cameras helped me to monitor little owl feeding behaviour during the breeding season.
We wanted to learn more about what prey items were being caught, which adult was doing the hunting and to observe chick behaviour from hatching to fledging.
This pair produced a good clutch size of four eggs during 2011. The mother incubated the eggs for 29 days and by 21 May 2011 all four eggs had successfully hatched.
For the first 14 days, the mother spent most of her time keeping the brood warm and tearing up prey to feed them. Weighing only 12g on day one, the chicks needed lots of food to reach 100g by day 14.
The male owl did most of the hunting at this stage, bringing back moths, beetles, worms, voles, mice, shrews and sparrows to his family. He was seen bringing back 10 hawkmoths and two worms in 10 minutes!
At two weeks old, the chicks’ eyes had opened; they could walk and, by huddling together, they were able to keep warm without their mother.
Both parents worked hard catching prey to keep up with the increasing food demands of their fast-growing chicks. They began hunting at dusk and carried on throughout the night until dawn.
As each day passed, the chicks became more competitive for food. The most well-fed chicks started to stand in the nestbox corridor entrance to ensure that they got the food first.
Fortunately, by 10 June, all four chicks were still alive and healthy so we ringed them. One week later, the juveniles started to explore the tree in which their nestbox was placed and soon they were gone.
Emily Joachim is a PhD student at Reading University, and is researching the effects of human land-use on raptor ecology and conservation, and long term monitoring of bird populations, particularly raptor species.
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