Little Owl
(Athene noctua)

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Invasive Status
Mildly Invasive Population increasing
Natural Range
  • Europe
  • Middle East
  • North-west Africa
  • East, central and west Asia
Introduced Range
  • England and Wales
  • New Zealand's South Island

Private ornamental collections

Pest control


Predation of Cromwell chafer beetle

Removal Methods


The little owl (Athene noctuais a small diurnal owl species. It is a generalist, preying on invertebrates, amphibians and small reptiles, birds and mammals. It  is tree-dwelling but spends much of its time near to the ground, perched on low branches, stumps and so on.


Natural RangeEdit

The little owl is native to large suathes of Eurasia and the northern border of Africa. Much of it's range takes the form of a band from Spain to Denmark, accross to China's Yellow Sea via many countries including north Myanmar, the northern tip of India, Mongolia, Syria and Estonia. [1]

Aside from this, the little owl is native to the Arabian Peninsula excluding the (Rub' al Khali region), Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, central and north-eastern Egypt and a sizeable part of north-western Africa (from Western Sahara to Libya). [1]

Introduced RangeEdit

The little owl has been introduced to Great Britain as far north as southern Scotland. It is the only non-native bird of prey species to have been successfully introduced to Great Britain, with a population of around 5700 breeding pairs. [3] The population of the bird here has decreased by around a quarter between 1995 and 2008. [4] It is not present in Ireland. [3]

This species of owl has also been introduced to New Zealand's South Island, and are present on the island's east side. [2]

Pathways and IntroductionEdit

The little owl was introduced to Britain as a novelty for private collections. It was also introduced to reduce the numbers of horticultutral and agricultural pests. The planned releases occured in Yorkshire in 1832, in Kent in 1874 and finally in Northamptonshire in 1888. [5]

Little owls were introduced to New Zealand to reduce populations of introduced finches and sparrows in order to reduce crop damage. [2]


In the United Kingdom, the little owl has had little or no recorded effect and is not considered invasive. [5] Some put this to the fact that little owls are native to the similar ecosytems of France where animal populations are stable and little owls have no detrimental effect. They therefore have little effect on Britain's ecosystems. The generalistic diet may also contribute to the little owl's lack of invasiveness. [4]

In New Zealand, the little owl has had almost no effect on native bird populations, despite being introduced there to predate birds. However, there is evidence to suggest that little owls are limiting populations of the endangered Cromwell chafer beetle, therefore not allowing their populations to grow and recover. [2/5]


1 The Owl Pages 2 NZ Birds Online

3 The RSPB

4 Discover Wildlife

5 GB Non-Natives Factsheet Editor