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Monday, April 23, 2012

RICHARD FREEMAN: Enormous owl?



CFZ Warwickshire rep Carl Marshall and I were out setting up camera traps the other day. Whilst on some waste ground close to Huddisford woods we came upon a gigantic owl pellet. It was so large that at first we mistook it for a dog turd. The pellet, which seemed to consist mostly of hair, measured fully five inches long. It seems far too big for most owls, with the exception of the huge European eagle owl. I have kept a number of owl species and the only ones that produced pellets anything like this size were eagle owls.

The eagle owl is a rare bird in the UK with only a small amount of breeding pairs. The RSPB are adamant that these are released or escaped individuals, saying that the sea amounts to a barrier that stops them naturally entering the UK. They also state that the species died out in Britain around 9000 years ago!

This all ignores the fact that eagle owls are known to fly hundreds of miles and could easily cross into the UK from mainland Europe. There have been many historic sightings of the bird in the UK. It seems to me that eagle owls are slowly recolonizing the UK naturally. Sure, the population will be boosted by escaped owls but on the whole it seems like a natural process.

The pellet is currently being soaked in a suspention of bicarbonate of soda to break it down in order to see if it contains any bones.

2 comments:

Lars Thomas said...

Could it be a pellet of some other birds of prey? I mean buzzards and such like do make pellets as well, and they can be quite big.

Carl said...

Is it possible an owl - say a Tawney owl could bring up more than one pellet, that have become fused together during regurgitation?

That might also explain why it broke up into two pieces so easily when it was moved. I have not actually heard of this happening however, I am just being theoretical.

A buzzard is also a good possibility as they often produce very large pellets that often contain little or no bone at all, and lots of hair. I thought the bones in it looked like those of a mouse.

I think these theories are all good. However I am not ruling out the possibility that this may have been produced by an anomalous European Eagle owl.