Little Owl – 2003-07 breeding

Athene noctua – TYLLUAN FACH – Breeding resident

Comparison with previous atlas:

1984-882003-07
Breeding confirmed71
Breeding probable72
Breeding possible173
No of tetrads occupied31 (of 478)6 (of 490)
Percentage of tetrads6.5%1.2%

Little Owls are found in open lowland country; they often perch in quite prominent positions close to nest sites and so are not quite as difficult to census, compared with the larger owls. According to Donovan and Rees (1994) Little Owls were thought to be increasing again following a gradual decline in the middle part of the 20th Century.

Recent data suggest that there has clearly been a significant crash in their population during the years between 1984-88 and 2003-07. During the earlier atlas period, Little Owls were recorded in 31 tetrads, but from only six tetrads during 2003-07, an 81% decline. All atlas categories registered fairly large declines.

Donovan and Rees (1994) estimated that there were probably 50 pairs breeding in Pembrokeshire in the 1980s. During the recent atlas period, breeding was confirmed only on Skomer Island and on Ramsey Island. On the Pembrokeshire mainland they were recorded at just a thin scattering of widely distributed locations where breeding was not proven. 

Although this is an introduced species to Britain, first recorded in Pembrokeshire at Solva in 1920 (Donovan and Rees, 1994), the Little Owl is now one of our rarest breeding species.  Judging by the latest distribution maps, it would appear to be one we could lose, at least on the Pembrokeshire mainland.

Bob Haycock (BTO rep & Chairman of the Pembs Bird Group)

Records extracted from the Pembrokeshire Bird Reports, which may contain more detail than shown here.

More about the Little Owl in Pembrokeshire