Eurasian Scops-owl

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Image:EurScopsOwl.jpg

Common Name: Eurasian or Common Scops-owl
Scientific Name: Otus scops

Size: 7.5-8.3 inches (19-21cm); Wingspan: 19-21 inches (47-54 cm)

Habitat: Eurasia and Africa; central, eastern and western Europe, and Africa north of the Sahara from Morocco to Tunisia, Asia Minor and eastwards to central Asia. It is generally a migratory bird. European owls normally winter in the Savannas of east and west Africa, north of the rainforest. In Autumn, the owls leave their breeding areas between August and November, returning between March and late April.

Their preferred habitats are semi-open or open country with scattered trees or small woods, cultivated areas with groups of trees, rocky landscapes, parks, avenues of trees along roads, gardens with mature trees, Mediterranean scrub and garrigue. In warm climates, they are also found in mountainous regions. This owl does not occur in dense forest. They winter mosty in savanna habitats.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 1,000,000-3,000,000 adult individuals with a decreasing population trend.

Diet: Mostly insects such as grasshoppers, beetles, moths, cicadas, spiders, caterpillars and earthworms. Small mammals, small birds, reptiles and frogs are also taken.

They are often attracted to artificial lighting to capture moths and other insects that have settled nearby by swooping on them. Larger prey are normally caught by swooping on them from a perch. Small prey are taken with the bill, while larger prey are seized with the talons. They are most active from after sunset to midnight.

Nesting: Males and females are alike. The facial disc is grayish-brown, finely mottled with the rim not very prominent. Eyes are yellow, and the bill is gray. Ear tufts can be difficult to see when the plumage is held loose. When afraid, this owl becomes very slim, with ear-tufts erected straight. Upper parts are grayish-brown with blackish streaks, the pattern resembling the bark of an old tree. The crown is similar, with blackish shaft-streaks. Scapulars are white on the outer webs, with a blackish central streak and black tip. The flight feathers are barred dark and pale, as is the short tail. Underparts are also grayish-brown but somewhat paler than the back, with blackish shaft-streaks, and some thin cross-bars and dark vermiculations. Several of the shaft-streaks are much broader than the others and have heavier horizontal vermiculations. Tarsi are feathered to the base of the toes, which are gray. Claws are grayish-brown with darker tips. There is also a rare reddish morph of this owl.

For migrating populations, breeding season starts on return from winter quarters. For resident populations, such as southern Spain, the season starts in February. Males begin by calling on calm nights. The female answers and the birds start duet-ting. Mating is frequent after such duets. The male then flies to a potential nest cavity, enters and sings from the opening. Once the female has inspected and accepted the cavity, the pair will remain close by every evening. Nest sites include natural cavities in trees, rocks or walls, woodpecker holes in tree trunks or thick branches, or holes in steep banks of ditches or sandpits, even under roofs. Nest boxes are also accepted. There is usually only one brood per year. Egg laying begins from late April or May to the first half of June, sometimes July. Normally 3-4 white eggs are laid directly on the bottom of the cavity at two day intervals. Incubation begins with the second egg and is done by the female alone while the male provides the food. The eggs hatch after 20-31 days, depending on climate. The female broods and feeds the young for about 18 days, then leaves the nest to help the male bring in food. The chicks hatch blind, with their eyes beginning to open at 6-8 days and fully opened at 11-13 days. Regurgitation of pellets begins at about 6-9 days. At 3-4 weeks, the young leave the nest, landing on the ground and climbing up into trees or bushes by using their bill and claws, and flutter with their wings. At about 33 days, they are fully capable of flight. They are cared for and fed by both parents for a further 4-5 weeks before becoming independent. Sexual maturity is reached at an age of about 10 months.

Cool Facts: The call is a deep whistle given by both sexes. It is similar to the call of the Midwife Toad. The maximum age recorded for a Common Scops owl is 12 and a half years.



Found in Songbird ReMix Owls of the World Volume 2

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