THE EUROPEAN EAGLE OWL


The European Eagle Owl was a native of Britain until the latter part of the 19th Century and became extinct here largely as a result of man’s persecution. However, in recent times reports of its return have become more frequent, although whether thee owls have migrated here or simply escaped from the large population of eagle owls captive-held in the UK (added to which several fox hunts in the UK have, controversially following the ban on hunting with dogs, begun to use Eagle Owls to catch foxes) - is unclear.

Eagle Owls are the largest of the owls and their sheer size and aggressive nature makes them the most dominant bird of prey (both nocturnal and diurnal) wherever they are found. Very occasionally they are killed by large Eagles, but more often it is they who prey on other Raptors.

The arrival of a new Eagle Owl in the vicinity causes panic amongst other Birds of Prey and a general re-arrangement of territories usually follows, as its new neighbours try to give it a wide berth. European Eagle Owls prey mainly on mammals – chiefly rabbits and hares – but they will also take birds up to the size of a large Buzzard, which are usually taken from night roosts. Large Eagle Owls have been known to take roe deer and foxes, which they kill by crushing their skulls with huge, powerful feet.

Lack of suitable habitat and our own reaction to them makes it more unlikely they will ever be able to return here in significant numbers - the jury is out as to whether indeed they should be allowed to, until it is assessed what effect their rumbustious behaviour may have on domestic mammal & bird species.

The Eagle Owl nests in ground scrapes usually among rocks in open woodland in mountain foothills up to an altitude of 4,500m. Although sedentary, this large Owl requires a territory up to 10km in diameter.