Monday, November 21, 2005

Animal of the Week November 21, 2005 -- Harry Potter's Eagle owls of Yorkshire

Another Harry Potter film, another flurry of news about owls. The exciting news for British peoples this time is that the world's largets owl is breeding in the UK! Bubo bubo (Eurasian eagle owl) is thought to have bred in the UK until about 200 years ago, when persecution by gamekeepers and farmers drove it to extinction. However, a pair have been breeding on the North York Moors for the past 8 years and there is also a breeding pair in Northumberland.

Standing about 70 cm tall, with a wingspan of nearly 2 m, and weighing up to 4.5 kg, these birds are large (unlike the previous owl Animal of the Week -- flammulated owls which are small). Not only the largest owl, Eurasian eagle owls are the world's most widespread owls: found from Japan to portugal and from Finland to the Sahara. They prey on pretty much anything they bloody well choose up to the size of small deers, and since the UK ban of hunting with dogs, several hunts have tried to use these birds to hunt foxes.

Where the birds now breeding in the UK came from is something of a mystery, some people suggest they've been released by people who had been keeping them as pets. Others think they might have crossed the channel of their own accord, tempted by generous benefits and employment opportunities. The latin name, Bubo, is not, as far as I can tell, related to bubo, the plague symptom (from middle Latin for swelling from Greek for groin), rather it is just the Latin name for horned owl.

Many thanks to everyone who let me know what cute animal they are. More of you were ducks or monkeys than any other animals.


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