Little owl feeds on insects at dawn and dusk

Photo: Philip Griffin
Photo: Philip Griffin
Tanya Jenkins is the manager of the Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai Trust, a non-profit organisation formed in 2002 to protect one of New Zealand’s most important coastal wetlands. Each week she introduces a new bird found in the estuary. Her column aims to raise the understanding of the values and uniqueness of the area.

Tanya Jenkins.
Tanya Jenkins.
Who would have thought that around our estuary we have a number of resident owls.

The little owl, also known as the german owl, is a brown and grey bird with white spots/streaks. Weighing around 170gm and only 23cm tall, they surely are the cutest owl you have ever seen.

They were introduced into New Zealand between 1906 and 1910 from Germany and, apart from one pair delivered to Rotorua, were released in the South Island where, along the east coast, they are doing really well.

The reason for this importation scheme at the time was for the owls to help control small introduced bird species that were a causing damage to grain and fruit crops.

But like many other introduced species, why would they stick to feeding on those alone when they also love beetles, moths, earwigs, frogs and lizards?

Surprisingly, unlike the better known morepork, the little owl feeds at dawn and dusk. During the day they are quite content perching on lamp posts, fence posts or in trees.

No wonder our estuary is classified as a “wetland of international importance” due to the variety and number of birds residing here.

It is up to us to ensure that they are safe from introduced predators and have ample and healthy food supplies, so they can continue their stay here.

Predator control around the estuary is undertaken by the city council, but we can all ensure that we have rat traps in our gardens to support this.

Keeping our dogs on the lead not allowing them to scare birds particularly now when many birds are establishing nesting sites is super important too.

I can highly recommend dog owners check out Bexley Reserve dog park off Pages Rd. There is ample parking and huge fenced off and fun play areas for dogs to run without disturbing the bird life.

 

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