Littel Grey Owls

by Carol Sawyer

This photo is of some of the sixty Little Owls (Athene noctua) arriving in Dunedin on the ship Aotea from Germany. Imported by the Acclimatisation Society, (now Fish and Game NZ), they were released off the Otago Heads in 1906.

What must they have made of it all?! Kaka, Kereru, Moreporks and Harrier hawks, and all manner of birds they had never seen before, as they worked to establish their own little territories.

Little Owls are often called German Owls in the south of NZ, but they are in fact an European owl and were only called German owls because this shipment came from Germany.

Little Owls were also released in Canterbury and Marlborough around the same time.

The Little Owl is slightly smaller, and also paler than the Morepork. The top of its head is flattened, unlike the Morepork, and the white eyebrows give it a frowning expression. A darker pattern of markings on the back of its head are such that from a distance it appears to have eyes and eyebrows on the back of its head. (I have never seen this written in bird books but it is an observation I have made from living with them.)

Carol says she wrote this because some stupid woman was trying to tell Oxford Bird Rescue that they were not honouring the Treaty of Waitangi by calling Little Owls “Little Owls” and that they should call them Ruru. —Eds