European Owls

There are around 13 species of owl living in Europe, ranging from Scandinavia to North Africa and Ireland to the edge of Asia. The commonest and most widespread of these species is the Tawny Owl.

Owls have a strong part to play in the continent’s mythology, cropping up in Greek legends where they are associated with the bird goddess Athena and her specialities of learning and the arts. The Romans borrowed these associations for their own Minerva and began the association of owls with funerary customs and with daytime sightings as bad omens – which has caused problems for the birds ever since.

Owls also make appearances in French, Welsh and Romanian mythology, generally being associated with both wisdom and ill-luck.

Despite their wide geographical spread, conservationists are becoming concerned about several European species, with habitats (especially forests) put under pressure from agriculture and urban development. There are several projects monitoring the European raptor and owl populations.

Here are the European owls we have at the sanctuary:

European Barn Owl

Goldie the European barn owl (Tyto alba guttata)

Goldie the European barn owl (Tyto alba guttata)

Sooty the Black Barn owl (Tyto alba kerkuil)

Sooty the Black Barn owl (Tyto alba kerkuil)

Scientific name: Tyto alba guttata
330mm to 430mm
Geographical distribution:
north, central and south America, Europe, Africa, southern and south-eastern Asia, Australasia

Habitat: grasslands, cultivations, scrub and forest edge
mostly rodents; occasionally small birds, bats and other prey
Status: widespread, locally threatened
Here are the names of the European Barn owls we have at the sanctuary:

We also have Sooty a very unsual Black Barn owl (Tyto alba kerkuil)

Tengmalm’s Owl

Tengmalm’s owl (Aegolius funereus)Scientific name: Aegolius funereus
Height: 220mm to 250mm
Habitat: Mainly old growth coniferous forest and mountainous regions                             

Diet: Mainly voles and other mammals but also birds as well as insects and other invertebrates
Status: Not globally threatened, but generally uncommon or rare
Geographical distribution: Pyrenees, Caucasus, Tien Shan and Himalayas

Here is the name of the Tengmalm’s owls we have at the sanctuary:


Great Grey Owl

Great Grey owl (Strix nebulosa lapponica)

Great Grey owl (Strix nebulosa lapponica)

Scientific name: Strix nebulosa lapponica
Height: 610mm to 840mm
Geographical distribution: northern Europe, northern Asia, the north of America and its western mountains

Habitat: mature forest
Diet: mainly small mammals, for example voles, squirrels, small hares and also large birds
threatened in localised areas

Here are the names of the Great Grey owls we have at the sanctuary:


Ural Owl

Ural owl (Strix uralensis)

Ural owl (Strix uralensis)

Scientific name: Strix uralensis
Height: 580mm to 610mm
Geographical distribution: central and northern Europe, central Asia, Korea and Japan

Habitat: old woodland and forest
Diet: voles and other mammals up to the size of small hares, plus birds and frogs
Status: locally not uncommon

Here are the names of the Ural owls we have at the sanctuary:

Common Scops Owl

Common scops owl (Otus scops)

Common scops owl (Otus scops)

Scientific name: Otus scops
Height: 160mm to 190mm
Geographical distribution: Europe and Asia

Habitat: woodland, cultivations, forest edge
grasshoppers, beetles, moths, cockroaches and scorpions
Status: common, locally declining

Here is the name of the Common Scops owl we have at the sanctuary:

European Eagle Owl

European eagle owl (Bubo bubo)

European eagle owl (Bubo bubo)

Scientific name: Bubo bubo
Height: 580mm to 710mm
Geographical distribution: Europe, North Africa, Asia and Middle East
Habitat: mountainous forest, semi-desert and rocky slopes

Diet: large birds and a variety of small- and medium-sized mammals including rabbits and hares, roe deer fawns, young foxes, hedgehogs and farmyard cats. Also frogs, newts and crabs
Status: widespread, but everywhere scarce, locally endangered

Here are the names of the European Eagle owls we have at the sanctuary:

Snowy Owl

Snowy owl (Nyctea scandiaca)

Snowy owl (Nyctea scandiaca)

Scientific name: Nyctea scandiaca
Height: 530mm to 660mm
Geographical distribution: Arctic regions

Habitat: tundra, bare rocky ground Diet: lemmings, rabbits, hares, rats, moles, voles, pikas, ground squirrel, pheasants, partridge, grebes and gulls

Here are the names of the Snowy owls we have at the sanctuary: