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)
The first Little Owl in Pembrokeshire was noted at Solva in 1920, and later the same year they were found breeding at several sites (Lloyd’s diary, 1936). Lloyd encountered them in ten widespread localities, ranging from Freshwater West to Eglwyswrw, between 1925 and 1937, and also found several nests. Lockley et al. (1949) stated that the Little Owl was by then a common resident.
It had become the commonest owl in Pembrokeshire by 1927, but was less numerous by 1946 when Saunders noted that “there are now only a few records annually, mostly from coastal areas”. A pair attempted to breed at Skokholm in most years up to 1954 but were discouraged and sometimes deported because of their predation of Storm Petrels. Up to six pairs breed annually at Skomer where Storm Petrels are also preyed upon. Little Owls were located in 31 tetrads during the 1984-1988 Breeding Birds Survey, probably totalling 50 pairs, and were recorded in other localities during the intervening winters, so they appear to be on the increase again.
Unknown so far west in Matthew’s day. Breeding first recorded in 1920. Now a common resident, breeding even on the islands, where it preys largely on Storm-Petrels if permitted to remain. Most abundant owl 1927, but less numerous by 1946.
1920 – One caught in a rabbit trap, Newgale Farm, 12 March (3 others between then and 1923). H.W.Evans
1920 – One killed, Solva, H W Evans collction, and recorded in BB of that year as the 1st for Pembs (per B.Lloyd). Lloyd goes on to record: Since then several nests have been found near (this owl was doubtless spread about the county before 1920 but was certainly rare; and even now it is still far from common)” B.Lloyd 1936
1925 – Skokholm, 6 & 7 July: We heard from the lighthouse-men that one had frequently been about of late. B.Lloyd
1927 – from Bertram Lloyds diaries:
30 May: This new introuctio is spreading rapidly. Oldham and I saw one tonight in the burrows (Tenby).
I saw a family near Newport in July
14 June: One seen on rocky outcrop (c.100ft up) under Preseli top
4 July: 2 ads and 4 or 5 young, Eglwyswrw
1930 – from Betram Lloyd’s diaries
9 July: One on the sand dunes nr Castle Martin Cors. There are now several about here (teste A.S.Jeremiah)
one heard, Ramsey 8 & 9 Sept
1 near Black Rock, Tenby, 13 Sept
1931– from Betram Lloyd’s diaries
1 Clarbeston Road, 30 April
26 July: A pair at the top of the cliffs among crags ne Saddle Point. In such places they are now nesting hereabouts
1937 – One, Norchard, 26 June (B.Lloyd)
1946 – One, possibly two pairs bred, Skomer (per JWD)
Records transcribed from Graham Rees’s historical archive
References: LLOYD. B. 1929-1939 Diaries, National Museum of Wales
Athene noctua – TYLLUAN FACH – Breeding resident Comparison with previous atlas: 1984-88 2003-07 Breeding confirmed 7 1 Breeding probable 7 2 Breeding possible 17 3 No of tetrads occupied 31 (of 478) 6 (of 490) Percentage of tetrads 6.5% 1.2% Little Owls are found in open lowland country; they often perch in quite prominent […]
Athene noctua – TYLLUAN FACH – Breeding resident 1984-88 Breeding confirmed 7 Breeding probable 7 Breeding possible 17 No of tetrads occupied 31 (of 478) Percentage of tetrads 6.5% The first Little Owl in Pembrokeshire was noted at Solva in 1920, and later the same year they were found breeding at several sites (Lloyd’s diary, […]
Athene noctua – TYLLUAN FACH – Breeding resident The BTO winter atlas showed that single Little Owls were noted in five Pembrokeshire 10km squares during the winters of 1981-82, 1982-82 and 1983-84. More about the Little Owl in Pembrokeshire
Athene noctua – TYLLUAN FACH – Breeding resident 1920 – One caught in a rabbit trap, Newgale Farm, 12 March (3 others between then and 1923). H.W.Evans 1920 – One killed, Solva, H W Evans collction, and recorded in BB of that year as the 1st for Pembs (per B.Lloyd). Lloyd goes on to record: […]