Little Owl – Records since 2000

Athene noctua – TYLLUAN FACH – scarce breeding resident.

2000 – 2-4 pairs bred Skomer, one on Ramsey fledged 2 young. On the mainland only reported from Hasguard Cross and Talbenny.

2001 – No proof of breeding on Ramsey. 1 pair bred Skomer, remains of pellets contained Skomer Vole, Wood Mice and a Storm Petrel but 55% of each pellet consisted of beetle remains. Reported from Talbenny fairly regularly, also one Flimston 17 Feb.

2002 – 2 pairs, possibly 3, on Skomer fledged 3 young, pellets still being analysed but so far remains of at least 8 Storm Petrels found. Ramsey: no proof of breeding. On mainland noted at Flimston, Strumble Hd, Talbenny, St Davids and Gelli.

2003 – Skomer 3 pairs, Ramsey 1 pair, probably bred at these sites. Mainland records from Flimston, Moylgrove and Gelly

2004 – Four pairs probably bred on Skomer also probably bred on Ramsey. Mainland records from Dale on 7 Oct and Strumble Hd 8, 9 and 11 Nov.

2005 – Nesting pairs 3 Skomer, 1 Ramsey, Only mainland record 1 Pentre Ifan, Brynberian turn-off, 12 Oct.

2006 – 2 pairs bred on Ramsey. 5 pair bred Skomer but no fledglings seen. The only mainland record was one Flimston 5 Feb.

2007 – On Ramsey 4 territories (2 in 2006). At least one fledged. but probably more. Only occasional records after the end of June, and not recorded after 1 Nov.  On Skomer at least three territories; with two definitely fledging. Diet included Storm Petrels and ladybirds.  The only mainland record was Of two at St Ishmæl’s 15 Oct (DG).

See also 2003-07 breeding distribution map

2008 – 3 pairs bred on both Ramsey and Skomer.  On the mainland reported from just three sites: Canaston on 7 Aug. Hoaten on 1st and 6 June, and two near Newport from August until the end of the year.

2009 – Single Castell-y-garn on 24 Feb. On Ramsey a pair reared 2 young, and at least two pairs present on Skomer.

2010 – Three pairs on Skomer of which two bred rearing three young, two pairs bred on Ramsey with four young fledged – interestingly individuals were not recorded there until April.

2011 – Single St. Ishmaels on 23rd Sept was the only mainland record. One pair reared three young on Skomer and three pairs on Ramsey

2012 – Reported only from Ramsey, where four pairs bred and at least two pairs on Skomer.

2013 – One in Rosebush Quarry Feb-Mar and at Porthgain, were the only mainland records received.  Five pairs bred on Ramsey (cf 4 last year) and one on Skomer.

2014 – On Ramsey four pairs present with chicks confirmed from two nests. One pair bred on Skomer rearing two chicks. On Skokholm a single bird 4th – 13th Mar, the first record on the island for 18 years. On the mainland one at Lochvane, Solva on 23rd Nov was the only record.

2015 – no records

2016 – Only recorded on the islands, with a single breeding pair on Skomer

2017 – On the mainland noted from Porthgain. May have bred at St Davids Head where two were present. Four pairs bred on Ramsey. Also reported from Skomer but no breeding activity was confirmed.

2018 – Mainland records from Porthgain, Milford and St Davids Head. Also reported from Ramsey and Skokholm. No evidence of breeding on Skomer this year.

2019 – Three Ramsey 29 May, two there 2 Oct. No nesting was recorded on Skomer this year. Only mainland records were of two at Porthgain 6 June and one at Marloes Mere 19 Jan.

2020 – One apparently occupied territory on Ramsey (cf. two in 2019).  Otherwise all records received were of singles at: Mullock 1 Mar, Pencarnan Camp, St. Davids 27 Mar and Martin’s Haven 29 May.

2021 – One pair bred on Ramsey. Elsewhere the only records received were of singles: heard calling at Gann 4 Mar and near Tregroes, Fishguard 9 Aug.

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

More about the Little Owl in Pembrokeshire

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

Little Owl – 1994

Athene noctua – TYLLUAN FACH – Breeding resident

Map produced by the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre
1984-88
Breeding confirmed7
Breeding probable7
Breeding possible17
No of tetrads occupied31 (of 478)
Percentage of tetrads6.5%

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, 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.

Donovan J.W. & Rees G.H, 1994, Birds of Pembrokeshire

LLOYD, B. 1925—1939. Diaries. National Library of Wales

SAUNDERS, D.R. 1976. A brief guide to the birds of Pembrokeshire. Five Arches Press.

More about the Little Owl in Pembrokeshire

Little Owl – early records

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: 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

More about the Little Owl in Pembrokeshire

Little Owl

Athene noctua – TYLLUAN FACH – Breeding resident

Little Owl – 2003-07 breeding

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 […]

Little Owl – 1994

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, […]

Little Owl – 1980s winter

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

Little Owl – 1949

Species account from the Birds of Pembrokeshire, 1949, by Lockley, Ingram and Salmon.

Little Owl – early records

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: […]