Little Owl

Athene noctua

البومة الصغيرة-أم قويق

Status: Common

A "meeting" in the field with this small, charismatic owl is always surprising and exciting. It is the most common of the owl living in this area that lives in the open fields. Its daytime activity makes it easy to observe.

 Its 23-28 cm in size and 130-225 grams in weight. Its general color is light brown, which is darker and more grayish in northern populations and sandy brown in the southern ones.  Its rounded head and stumpy body make it appear like a ball of feathers, especially while resting. Its large yellow eyes on the front of its head give it a human expression. The legs are long, strong, and feathered with short white feathers. The upper parts are brown with white dots, the abdomen is white or gray with brown streaking, and the head is grayish brown with a brown crown dotted in white, The brows are white and are incorporated into the "white spectacles" that encircle the eye. The white chin is part of the white bar at the base of the head. The V sign at the nape of the neck is similar to the brows, gives the impression of its having eyes in the back of its head.

 When nervous, for example when approached by man, the little owl stretches itself and cowers in turn, makes quick bows, and agitatedly moves its head from side to side, sometimes making knocking sounds with its beak. If the disturbance continues, it will hide in the nesting niche or fly a short distance (from a few tens to hundreds of meters).its flight is swift with deep undulations, similar to that of the large woodpecker. 

The little owl commonly inhabits open spaces, but can be seen in country settlements and in the cultivated fields. It is attracted to mounds with ruins, and rocky areas with small cliffs where it can find crevices for hiding and nesting.  The little owl is territorial, usually living in steady couples in the same place all year long. Its regurgitated pellets are small, 25-40 mm long and 12-20 mm wide. 

The little owl is a partially diurnal bird, especially active on cloudy days or in the early morning and evening hours. It hunts in the evening, night and early morning. While hunting, it may use an exposed lookout points such as telephone wires or electricity cables, rock piles and terraces, then it can be observed easily. When hunting, it may hover for short intervals. In the summer its diet is composed of arthropods, small reptiles and amphibians whereas in the winter it will prey on songbirds and small mammals, such as mice. In the night and the early hours of the morning the little owl loudly announces its presence, usually with a sharp, repetitive" Kii-yuuu".   It may sound a bit like a cat's cry. A warning call would be a high short "chi, chi". The song is similar to that of the Scops owl, a dull hoot that   is repeated every few seconds. The song of the little owl is of a lower tone and held longer than that of the Scops owl. 

The breeding season is from February to July in this area.  Usually 3-5 white eggs are laid, and the incubation starts after all the eggs are laid. Most of the incubation is carried out by the female while the male watches over the territory and feeds the female. The incubation period of 27-28 days is followed by another 30 days in the nest until fledging. Both parents continue to feed the fledglings several weeks after fledging. Usually there is only one brood per year, however, rare cases of a second brood are known. The nest can be made in a variety of places: in niches in cliffs, rock terraces, tree hollows, attics of houses and in burrows dug by large rodents or foxes in sandy areas. The Little Owl has a wide distribution in most of central and south Europe, north Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, central Asia, China and Mongolia. 

International conservation status: Least Concern, Regional conservation status: Least Concern

Migratory behaviour: Resident breeder 

Sites: Beitillu, Umm at-Tut, Wadi Al-Quff