Little Owl

Little Owl

Key facts

Scientific name: Athene noctua

Status: Resident introduced population

Breeding pairs: 5,700

Conservation status: Introduced

Length: 21 – 23 cm

Wingspan: 54 – 60 cm

Weight: 160 – 205 g


Little owls are small, plump birds. They have wide, rounded wings and a short tail. They vary in colour from grey-brown to buff and rust. Little owls’ upperparts are spotted with white spots while their underparts are streaked with brown. They have white bars on their tails.

Little owls have black half collars and long broad white eyebrows. Dark coloured birds have conspicuous facial disks. Little owls have yellow bills, bright yellow eyes and white legs.

Male and female little owls look similar although females are slightly larger. Juveniles are lighter with fewer streaks and spots.


Little owls build their nests in cavities and holes in trees abandoned by woodpeckers as well as holes in walls and buildings.

They lay 2-6 white eggs which the female incubates alone for 28-33 days. Males feed the female as she nests. Chicks are fed by both adults upon hatching and they leave the nest about 26 days later but fully fledge at about 30-35 days.


Little owls feed mainly on small mammals and birds as well as amphibians, reptiles and large insects.

Little Owl

Where to see them

Little owls can be found in England and Wales, most commonly in the central, south and south east regions. A few are found in southern Scotland. They can be seen in daylight perching on a tree branch or telegraph pole in farmland, hedges, orchards and parks.


Marco Dragonetti/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Little owls were successfully introduced into Britain in the 1800s although historical documents and fossil records show that the birds had been seen in the UK in previous centuries.

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