I’m working on capturing the characteristics of a full set of five English owls. This is the last owl, the Little Owl, which was actually introduced here in the 19th century. I am still paying attention to pattern, colour and simple forms. I have in mind to work up all these owl images into final pen and watercolour pictures and printed editions. I took these photos today in the gloom so there are some shadows on them that I couldn’t fix.
Some facts about Little Owls are:
1) As the name suggests the little owl is the smallest owl to be found in Britain, it is only 22cm long and it weighs a third as much as a Tawny Owl.
2) Little Owls can live up to 16 years; but many do not reach maturity being killed by harsh winters, predators and road vehicles, so their average life span is only 3 years.
3) This is the owl that is closely associated with the Greek goddess Athena and the Roman goddess Minerva; representing wisdom and knowledge. The genus name Athene commemorates the goddess, whose original role as a goddess of the night might explain the link to an owl. The species name noctua has, in effect, the same meaning, being the Latin name of an owl sacred to Minerva, Athena’s Roman counterpart.
4) Little Owls feed mostly on insects and small rodents; and they love eating earthworms after it has rained. But they also prey on amphibians, birds and on occasion rabbits! As well as swooping down on prey from an elevated position these owls will also hunt on foot, running to capture their prey.
5) In the UK the Little Owl prefers lowland farmland with hedges and copses, parkland and orchards. Males are sedentary, remaining in their territory throughout the year.
(© Catherine Cronin)