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World Owl Trust - leading the World in Owl Conservation
Monday 22nd December, 2014

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Record-breaking Breeding Season At The World Owl Centre

Already, 2010 has proved to be a record-breaking year at the World Owl Centre with no fewer than twenty-one owl species raising more than fifty youngsters. It is always pleasing to breed and raise young owls naturally without the need for artificial incubation or other human interference. Youngsters raised naturally become good parents themselves and ensure the production and viability of future generations.

In preparation, during the latter months of 2009, aviaries were renovated, disinfected and re-branched, new nest boxes were constructed and sited and owls were transferred to and from other centres to make up potential new breeding pairs.

It was a cold winter but the owls remained in good condition. They went to nest earlier than ever with many sitting on clutches of eggs in February and March. An unexpected late cold spell caused them little harm and fertility was good. Spring and summer were warm and dry.

As a consequence, 2010 saw clutches of five Long-eared Owls, five Northern Hawk Owls, four Great Grey Owls and four Little Owls hatched and raised without loss. Many others had more normal sized clutches of two or three. Most of the breeding owls were experienced breeders, having raised chicks before but MacKinder’s Eagle Owls, Spectacled Owls, White-faced Owls, Western Screech Owls, Long-eared Owls and European Scops Owls all bred for the first time. Most of the first-time breeders were young birds but the male MacKinder’s Eagle Owl, now paired with a five year old female, is twenty-two years old. The pair of Spectacled Owls, fifteen and eleven years old and producing infertile eggs since 2004, were greatly encouraged by the addition of a two year old male to their aviary. Jealousy of the older male or extra interest for the female, a very attractive owlet, recently leaving the nest, is the happy result.

Most of our owls only breed once each year but because of an early start, some will raise chicks in the spring and then again in the summer. Two pairs of White-faced Owls and a pair of Ferruginous Pygmy Owls are already sitting on their second clutches of eggs and several others may well follow their example later in the year.

Of course, not all of our owl pairs will breed successfully during 2010. Some are now too old to breed and good retirement homes will be found for them before they are replaced by younger birds. Others are not old enough to breed and we must wait for another season. Others just don’t breed and some of them will be exchanged with other centres to provide more compatible mates.

The World Owl Trust is a registered conservation charity and never buys or sells owls. Owls bred at the World Owl Centre are donated to other centres for breeding purposes. All these transfers between centres, public and private, demand a high level of cooperation to ensure that owls go to the best and most effective homes. It is thanks to the unselfish cooperation and generosity of spirit of many owl-breeding individuals throughout Britain and Europe that enables the collection of owls at the World Owl Centre to thrive and breed with such a high degree of success.

David Armitage

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The World Owl Trust is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA). The Trust relies on a dedicated membership, visitors, donations and legacies.
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