Small Earless Owls

Small Earless Owls

 

(Russian, sychi), small and middle-sized birds of the order Strigiformes, characterized by a common external feature—the absence of tufts of feathers (“ears”) on the head.

There are approximately 20 species of small earless owls. They are distributed in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North and South America. Three species are found in the USSR. The smallest, with a body length of approximately 16 cm, is the pygmy owl (Glaucidium passerinum), found in the forest zone. The two other species—Tengmalm’s, or boreal, owl (Aegolius funereus) and the little owl (Athene noctua)—are similar in size (length about 26 cm) and in coloration (dull mottled brown). The Tengmalm’s owl inhabits the forest zone and mountain forests in the Crimea, Caucasus, and Middle Asia; the little owl is found in steppes, deserts, and, more rarely, the forest-steppe zone.

Small earless owls are either migratory or nonmigratory. The forest-dwelling species nest in natural cavities, and the little owl, in burrows, in rock crevices, and on man-made structures. They are extremely useful birds, since they feed primarily on rodents; the little owl also feeds on large insects. In winter the pygmy owl stores its uneaten prey in natural cavities.

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