Everything You Wanted to Know About the Eurasian Eagle Owl
The Eurasian Eagle Owl
As the name implies, this large and beautiful species of owl is found across much of Europe and Asia. Also referred to as the European Eagle-Owl or just the Eagle-Owl, this large and powerful apex predator is similar in appearance to the great Horned Owl of North America.
Considered one of the two largest species of owl in the world along with the Blakiston’s Fish Owl, the Eagle Owl is quite large and very powerful. Slightly smaller than the Golden Eagle, the Eagle Owl has an impressive wingspan that can reach up to six and a half feet. Their body length can range from 22 up to 30 inches and as with other birds of prey the female is larger than the male, by about one-third. While males can weigh up to six pounds a large female can reach nine pounds. This is one well built and bulky owl.
The Eurasian Eagle Owl has a very similar look its North American Cousin the Great Horned Owl due to their ear tufts. They have large heads and their face feathers form a unique looking facial disk, which helps to channel sound to the ears. Their coloring will vary depending on the subspecies and location with various shades of brown, grey, black and off-white. They have a mostly white throat and chin, which extends down the middle of the upper breast. Their feet and bill are black and most of their legs are covered with feathers. They have large and powerful talons, which make for the perfect hunting tools. And those eyes, they have the most amazing orange eyes that give them a stunning appearance.
Beautiful Orange Eyes
The Eurasian Eagle Owl can be found in a variety of habitats, but they prefer rocky areas with cliffs. They can be found throughout most of Europe and Asia as well as some areas of Africa on the fringes of the Sahara Desert. This hardy owl can adapt to many different habitats ranging from coniferous forests, deserts, river valleys, and even the northern areas of Siberia. They can be found at sea level up to mountainous elevations of over 10,000 feet.
While the Eurasian Eagle Owl does prefer remote areas where human interference is limited they have on occasion been known to nest in cities with Helsinki, Finland having five nesting pairs since 2005.
Slow motion video in flight
The Eurasian Eagle Owl has a varied diet but feeds mainly on small mammals such as mice, voles, rats, rabbits and squirrels. They will also prey on other birds and even the occasional fox or small deer. Pretty much any prey that is not bigger than itself is a potential meal for the Eurasian Eagle Owl.
As with other owls the Eagle Owl swallows its food whole if possible including feathers, fur and bones. The materials that its body cannot digest are later regurgitated as pellets. If unable to swallow its prey whole it will use its powerful beak to tear its food apart.
The Eurasian Eagle Owl, as with most other owl species is nocturnal and does most of its hunting at night. They can occasionally be found hunting in the early evening around dusk or in the early morning as the sun is rising. Their method of hunting usually consists of them watching for activity from a stationary perch for potential prey and then swiftly swooping down as a victim is spotted. As they have excellent eyesight and hearing they have no problem picking up any prey movement.
Once a meal is secured the owl will attempt to fly off with it to be consumed. If the prey is too large they will eat it on the ground but this makes them vulnerable to predators. As their feeding preferences are very similar to that of the Golden Eagle they will sometimes compete with each other for food, but given the different times of day that they hunt this does not happen often, which is a good thing for the Eurasian Eagle Owl as the Golden Eagle is larger and just as fierce.
The Eurasian Eagle Owl will generally nest on cliff ledges, cave entrances or in rocky crevices. They will occasionally use an abandoned nest of other birds and if no suitable site is available they will resort to nesting on the ground under a fallen tree or between rocks. They will often return to the nest in subsequent years as they are territorial.
A pair of Eagle Owls will very often mate for life, which is common among other species of owl and birds or prey. They will lay one clutch of one to four eggs per year, usually beginning in late winter. The eggs are laid not all at once but at three day intervals and the female does all of the incubating. During this time the male will hunt and bring food to the nest. The incubation period will last about 35 days and once hatched the owlets will be fed by the female for the first few weeks. After this time the young owls will start to feed themselves with the food brought to the nest by the male.
At about five weeks the young owls will begin to walk around the nesting site and by seven weeks they can begin to take short flights. They will continue to be cared for by the parents for up to six months and once they have mastered the art of hunting they will leave or be driven off by the parent’s. This will normally happen in the September to November time frame. After about a year the young owl will reach its maturity but they generally do not start to breed until they are two to three years old and have established their own territory.
The life span of the Eurasian Eagle Owl is about twenty years in the wild. In captivity they can live up to sixty years. With no natural predators to worry about the leading cause of premature death is usually human related with traffic accidents, electrocution, pesticide use and shootings being the biggest culprits.
The Eurasian Eagle Owl is endangered in some areas, especially in Europe, but is currently listed as of Least Concern by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). There are a number of captive breeding programs that have been very successful in reintroducing this owl back into the wild. While their numbers have recovered somewhat in Europe they are still protected under the Conservation of European Wildlife Convention.
Current estimates place the number of breeding pairs in Europe at about 25,000, which equates to about 100,000 individuals. Estimates for Asia and Africa are unknown but the worldwide population is thought to be at a minimum of 250,000. While this sounds like a healthy population, it is not, and their overall numbers have continued to trend downward.
I know I sound like a broken record but more must be done to ensure the long term survival of these amazing birds. Most of the large birds of prey around the world are considered an apex predator, which means they are at the top of their food chain and have no natural predators. We humans are the biggest obstacle that prevents these species from flourishing in their rapidly diminishing habitat.
Amazing slow motion video of Eurasian Eagle Owl
Interesting Facts on the Eurasian Eagle Owl
- The Eurasian Eagle owl is one of the few owls that will ride on the thermal updrafts similar to hawks and vultures.
- The Eurasian Eagle Owl is the largest owl in the world when taking into consideration its wingspan, which is up to six and a half feet.
- The Eagle Owls eyes are fixed and as such do not move. To see from side to side the owl has to turn its head, which it can rotate almost 270 degrees around.
- The Eagle Owl is actually far sighted. This is due to the configuration of their eyes that are set into the skull, which squeezes their eyeballs. This has a telescope effect on their eyesight. Just another reason for their amazing vision.
- Did you know that there are about 205 different species of owl?
- The ear tufts are neither ears nor tufts, but simply feathers that the owl can raise or lower depending on its mood. Raising them certainly gives this owl a more menacing appearance.
- The scientific name of the Eurasian Eagle Owl is Bubo bubo.
© 2013 Bill De Giulio