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: […]