Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle

(Aquila Chrysaetos)


Golden Eagle (Aquila Chrysaetos)

The golden eagle is the UK’s second largest birds of prey and has a wing span of around 2 metres. Males weigh-in at about 3.5kg but females are heavier at about 5kg. Adult golden eagles are predominantly dark brown with paler feathers around the back of the head – giving the species its name. Juvenile golden eagles are a richer chocolate brown with conspicuous white wing and tail patches.


The rugged and remote terrain of the peatlands, uplands and mountains is the haunt of the golden eagle. Originally they ranged over much of upland Britain and Ireland but persecution and modification of their habitat since the mid 18th century has all but restricted them to the wildest parts of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. A few pairs survive in the hills of southern Scotland but currently there are none in England. There is a project to reintroduce golden eagles to the mountains of Ireland underway at present.


Golden eagles are top of the chain of birds of prey taking a wide range of prey. Typical food includes hares, rabbits, ptarmigan, grouse, deer calves, seabirds and carrion. They require large home ranges in which to hunt and breed and are highly territorial, in particular defending the core part of their home range; this area is their territory. Home ranges and territories are used over many years and some pairs have more than one nest (eyrie) and make alternate use of these. Eyries can be on cliffs or in trees and they become large, bulky structures over the years. Golden eagles rarely breed until they are four to five years old and many birds live beyond 30 years. A clutch typically comprises one to three eggs with two the norm. These are laid between early March and mid April. Incubation lasts 41 – 45 days so that the chicks hatch in late April to early June. The chicks then spend about 70 days in the nest before fledging from July to mid September. The most productive pairs can raise two young but many pairs only raise one. There is a high overall failure rate with the latest national survey recording an average of just 0.36 chicks fledging per pair. UK population: The latest national survey was in 2003 and it recorded 442 pairs. Previous national surveys in 1982 and 1992 counted 424 pairs and 422 pairs, respectively. There has therefore been little change in the overall population over the past 20 years. However, this apparent stability disguises some shifts in the population distribution (e.g. there have been increases in the Western Isles and in parts of Caithness and Sutherland but declines in the central and eastern Highlands.

The Golden Eagle is a magnificent bird of prey.


Tropical Screech Owl

Tropical Screech Owl

(Megascops choliba)


Tropical Screech Owl (Megascops choliba)

This owl has a yellow iris and a light gray facial disk, with a prominent black border; underparts white with a herring-bone pattern where each feather has black shaft streaks throughout. Crown and upperparts heavily streaked dark; tail and flight-feathers are barred with brown and light buff, the scapulars have a dark-edged pale spots, what give them a white line along each side above the wing. The bill is greenish-grey, feathered tarsus, toes are bare and feet are grey-brown.


Length 20-24cm. Wing length 146-180mm. Weight 96-160g.


This raptor is almost strictly nocturnal, initiating its activities at dusk. During daytime this owl roosts in dense foliage trees, probably close to the trunks like other Screech Owls.


Its main call is a brief trill followed by two louder toots, " gurrrrrrku-kúk".


These owls lay eggs in January - July in Northern Hemisphere; in Southern Hemisphere, the egg laying was recorded in September-October. But males normally sing on August, initiating the courtship period, when both sexes are vocally active. These owls nest in cavities, as natural or old woodpecker holes in trees, but also in termite mounts and nest boxes. Usually about 1-4 white eggs, averaging 34.3 x 29.3mm, are laid on the bottom of cavity without any protection. Incubation is provided by female. In Misiones (Argentina) a male was reported carrying food to the nest. The nestlings are brooded for about a month when the young owls fledge.

Hunting & Food:

Food habits are poorly known. Few samples of pellets and field observations suggest a mostly insectivorous diet, including crickets, katydids, beetles, ants, spiders and scorpions. Preys are mostly nocturnal and live on the ground. Insects can be captured on wing or on the ground. There are observations of individuals catching insects in flight, particularly in the vicinity of artificial light sources, suggesting a learning process. Small vertebrates are also consumed as rodents, opossums, anurans and snakes, but in small proportions. However, in terms of estimated prey biomass consumption, these vertebrates can support 1/3 to 1/2 of the diet.


This species is found in a wide variety of habitats. However, Tropical Screech owls occur mostly in semi-open habitats, like timbered savannah, semi-open areas with scattered trees, forest edges, second-growth forests, plantations, and also town parks. In a gradient of physiognomies from open to woody areas, as the Brazilian savannah, this owl seems to avoid pure grasslands or grassland savannahs with shrubs, preferring patches with at last some trees to woody savannahs. Generally they occur in areas from sea level to 1500m, but they have also been recorded at 3000m.


The Tropical Screech owl is distributed on most of South America east of the Andes from Costa Rica to northern Argentina, east of Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, and all over Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname.


Southern White Faced Scops Owl

Southern White Faced Scops Owl

(Ptilopsis Granti)


Southern White Faced Scops Owl (Ptilopsis Granti)

One of the most beautiful birds of prey is the Southern White faced Scops with its characteristic white face edged with black and amber jewel-like eyes. The White-faced Scops Owl occurs in savannah country from the scrub desert fringes of the Sahara to the arid south western coastal region of Africa. Its diet consists mainly of insects and arachnids, however it occasionally hunts small birds and mammals. They lay 2 to 3 eggs and are incubated for 30 days, the young are independent at 6 weeks.

More information to follow shortly.


The Kestrel

The Kestrel

(Falco tinnunculus)


The Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

Is also known as the European Kestrel, Eurasian Kestrel or Old World Kestrel. In Britain, where no other brown falcon occurs, it is generally just called ‘the Kestrel’. The Kestrel is one of the most common birds of prey found in Britain. The population of breeding pairs in Britain is stable.

The male Kestrel has black-spotted chestnut brown upperparts and a blue-grey head and tail. Their tail has a single black bar at the tip. Underneath, the breast is buff coloured with black spots. The female kestrel (or falcon) is darker than the male and their back, mantle and wings all have black barring. Their tail has black barring along its length.

The creamy underparts are more heavily streaked in black than the male. Occasionally, their head and tail may be tinged with grey. Juvenile kestrels are similar in appearance to the female kestrels.

Kestrels are similar in size to the Sparrow hawk, however, kestrels have more pointed wings. They are not fast or powerful fliers and their wing beat is rather ‘flappy’.

Kestrels are found in a wide variety of habitats, from moor and heath, to farmland and urban areas.

The only places they do not favour are dense forests, vast treeless wetlands and mountains. They are a familiar sight, hovering beside a motorway or other main road. They can often be seen perched on a high tree branch or on a telephone post or wire, on the lookout for prey.

Kestrels nest in holes in trees or on a ledge on cliffs or buildings and simply line the hole or ledge with sticks and straw.

Kestrels do not build their own nests, but use nests built by other species.

Kestrels feed mainly on small mammals, such as voles, shrews, mice and birds as large as Starlings.

However, kestrels are adaptable birds and will switch to invertebrates such as beetles, earthworms, grasshoppers or even snails.

In addition to having exceptionally good eyesight, Kestrels can also see ultra-violet light. This is useful in locating voles because they leave a trail of urine wherever they go and the urine glows in ultra-violet light.

Kestrels can be easily identified by their hunting behaviour, hovering low over grassland in search of prey.

Kestrels have keen eyesight enabling them to spot small prey from a distance.

They are able to hover at a height of around 10 – 20 metres over open countryside.

While hovering, the Kestrels head is kept perfectly still giving it the ability to spot the slightest movements on the ground. When suitable prey is in sight, the Kestrel drops vertically towards the ground, swooping to grab its prey in its talons and killing it with a swift bite. Kestrels can often be found hunting along the sides of roads and motorways.

Kestrels also frequently use pylons or telegraph poles as vantage points to spot prey, saving themselves the effort of hovering.


Tawny Owl

Tawny Owl

(Strix Aluco)


Tawny Owl (Strix Aluco)

The Tawny owl is by far our most common breeding Owl, outnumbering the Barn Owl by 10-1 and Little Owl by 2/3-1. Adult males and females are alike. Tawny Owls are medium sized owls averaging 40cms in length. They come in two colour forms, grey-brown and rufous-brown. The plumage is extremely cryptic and due to this difficult to locate day roosting birds. The Tawny Owl is large headed, compact bodied, broad winged owl.

Upperparts are rich brown with varying amounts of darker streaking and small white markings on the wing coverts, the underside is also heavily streaked dark and rufous on a paler background.

The Tawny Owls head is large, with Black eyes (only shared by Barn Owl) and horn coloured bill.

The face disc is reasonably plain with darker wedge from forehead to bill.

From bill to forehead the wedge shows obvious pale markings and pale eyebrow like markings on crown.

They often appear ‘bull headed’ and stand very upright at roost and are compact bodied and short tailed.


Juveniles appear from April onwards and once their white down feathers are moulted they look very similar to adults.

Status and Distribution

The Tawny Owl is a very common breeding resident in the UK with over 50,000 pairs. The Tawny Owl occurs in all counties throughout  England, Scotland and Wales but is absent in Ireland. (A few pairs recently found breeding in eastern Ireland)


Tawny Owls occur in all habitat types throughout the UK, woodlands, parks, gardens, farmland, hedgerows indeed any open country habitat with suitable scrub. They prefer broadleaf woodland for nesting purposes but will hunt by night in many habitat types.


The Barn Owl

The Barn Owl

(Tyto alba)


The Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

The Barn Owl is the most widely distributed species of owl and one of the most widespread of all birds. It is also referred to as the common barn owl, Ghost owl and Screech Owl to distinguish it from other species in its family, Tytonidae, which forms one of the two main lineages of living owls, the other being the typical owls (Strigidae). The barn owl is found almost everywhere in the world except polar and desert regions, Asia north of the Himalayas, most of Indonesia, and some Pacific islands.

Phylogenetic evidence shows that there are at least three major lineages of barn owl, one in Europe, western Asia and Africa, one in southeast Asia and Australasia, and one in the Americas, and some highly divergent taxa on islands.

Accordingly, some authorities split the group into the western barn owl for the group in Europe, western Asia and Africa, the American barn owl for the group in the Americas, and the eastern barn owl for the group in southeast Asia and Australasia.

Some taxonomic authorities further split the group, recognising up to five species, and further research needs to be done to clarify the position.

There is a considerable variation between the sizes and colour of the approximately 28 subspecies but most are between 33 and 39 cm (13 and 15 in) in length with wingspans ranging from 80 to 95 cm (31 to 37 in). The plumage on head and back is a mottled shade of grey or brown, the underparts vary from white to brown and are sometimes speckled with dark markings.

The face is characteristically heart-shaped and is white in most subspecies. This owl does not hoot, but utters an eerie, drawn-out screech.

The barn owl is nocturnal over most of its range, but in Britain and some Pacific islands, it also hunts by day.

Barn owls specialise in hunting animals on the ground and nearly all of their food consists of small mammals which they locate by sound, their hearing being very acute.

They mate for life unless one of the pair gets killed, when a new pair bond may be formed. Breeding takes place at varying times of year according to locality, with a clutch, averaging about four to 9 eggs, being laid in a nest in a hollow tree, old building or fissure in a cliff.

The female does all the incubation, and she and the young chicks are reliant on the male for food. When large numbers of small prey are readily available, barn owl populations can expand rapidly, and globally the bird is considered to be of least conservation concern.

Some subspecies with restricted ranges are more threatened.


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