Photo of rarely seen little owl delights

This little owl blends into the sun-lit, weathered boards of a derelict building near Tunnel...
This little owl blends into the sun-lit, weathered boards of a derelict building near Tunnel Beach Rd, in Dunedin, yesterday. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
After many years of looking but not seeing much, Dunedin zoologist Anthony Harris was delighted to see a photograph of a little owl.

"It’s a great photograph of a little-seen species," Mr Harris said yesterday.

Otago Daily Times illustrations editor Stephen Jaquiery photographed the bird as it was perching on the windowsill of an old building near Tunnel Beach Rd, in Dunedin, yesterday afternoon.

Mr Harris, who is also an Otago Museum honorary entomologist, said he had been keeping an eye out for little owls (Athene noctua) for about 40 years.

He had found several nests in abandoned barns on the Taieri over the years, and within the nests had seen the bones of small rodents and birds and the remains of insects, but he had glimpsed little of the little owl itself.

The little owl was introduced in Otago and Canterbury, from Germany, between 1906 and 1910 in an effort to control the numbers of exotic small birds feeding on orchards and crops.

Mr Harris said the photograph showed the "characteristic habitat" of a bird which often nested in abandoned rural buildings and was rarely seen, despite often hunting small birds during the day, and digging up earthworms in bright sunlight, as well as feeding in the evening.

His only sighting of a live little owl had come 32 years ago, "which suggests they are little seen", he said.

john.gibb@odt.co.nz

 

Comments

Are those owls very few in number or "a little-seen species"? They must be very smart to remain out of human sight in spite of "hunting small birds during the day, and digging up earthworms in bright sunlight". The colour and speckled plumage as shown in the photo looks as if it would blend in almost anywhere outdoors.

 

drivesouth-pow-classic-2.png

 

Advertisement

postanote_header_620_x_80.png

postanote_620_x_25.jpg

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter