basic information

Little Owl

Athene noctua (Scopoli, 1769)

Домовый сыч | Байғыз

Jelturanga, lower current of Ile river, Almaty oblast
© Askar Isabekov


The Little Owl breeds mostly in the southern part of Kazakhstan, all the year round it lives on breeding areas. Please see the detailed distribution in Kazakhstan in the section Subspecies


The Little Owl is common resident. It inhabits the sandy, clayey or stony deserts and semi-deserts with combs or dried rivers; xerophytic low mountains and chinks; forestless foothills of main ridges up to 1500-2000 m. Generally it prefers open countries; likes to perch on stones, poles, human constructions; avoids of trees and shrubs. Breeds in separate pairs, not less than 0.5 km one from another. It builds the nest in cavities of precipices or rocks; between stones; in holes of rodents; tree holes; old cemetery monuments; uninhabited houses and sheep-folds; under the bridges. Clutch of 4-8 eggs is laid in April – May. Female incubates for 28 days from laying of first egg; male feeds her and afterwards the brood. Fledglings at the age about one month recorded from the mid-June. After the several weeks the broods break up; and juveniles begin to disperse not far from birthplace. The basic food is the rodents; in villages it usually is mouse and rats; sometimes not less in weight than Little Owl. It perhaps is most brave hunter from all predators. Perching somewhere on the prominence it wait the prey. Eats also insects, most of all the large bugs. Besides it catches lizards and small birds. Most activity time is the evening and morning twilights. Quite often it also hunts in the afternoon. Usually in the afternoon Little Owls sit on the open prominence and barely rest. It lives in stable pairs on the own territory all the year round.


Athene noctua noctua (Scopoli, 1769)

    Description. Upper parts are dark brownish, darkest of all races; the dark pattern on the under parts is deep and contrast. Male wing length 152-169 (160), female 158-177 (168) mm.
    Distribution. Breeds the northern part of the area between Volga and Ural rivers (southward to 49-th parallel), and Ural valley, eastward to lower reaches of Ilek river. Probably birds of this race observed in the end of July 2001 at Shortandy area.

Athene noctua indigena (C.L.Brehm, 1855)

    Description. Upper parts are rusty-brown less brown, sometimes greyish tinged, lighter than on noctua. The dark pattern on under parts is slightly paler and less contrast than on noctua. Male wing length 163-170 (164), female 166-173 (168) mm.
    Distribution. Breeds in the southern part of the area between Volga and Ural rivers (northward to 49-th parallel), on east to lower current of Ural valley.

Athene noctua bactriana (Blyth, 1847)

    Description. Upper parts are light-brownish rusty tinged, lighter than on indigena. The dark pattern on under parts is paler and less contrast than on indigena and noctua. Male wing length 159-174 (166), female 159-177 (169) mm.
    Distribution. Breeds from the east coast of Caspian Sea and lower valley of Ural river; to east border of Balkhash-Alakol depression, foothills of Tarbagatay ridge, Dzhungarskiy Alatau and Tien Shan. On 3 September 1980 collected on Tengiz lake.

Athene noctua orientalis (Severtzov, 1873)

    Description. Upper parts are clay-grey, less brownish; usually lighter than on bactriana (but occasionally not distinguished from bactriana). The dark pattern on under parts is slightly more contrast than on bactriana. The white mottling of upper parts is more developed than at other races. Male wing length 165-172 (168), female 170-181 (176) mm.
    Distribution. Breeds in Tien Shan, Dzhungarskiy Alatau, Tarbagatay ridges and probably foothills of Altai and Kalbinskiy Altai. A.M. Chelzov-Bebutov (1978) considers that birds recorded in Kyzyltau Mts. at south of Pavlodar region refer to this subspecies.

Athene noctua plumipes (Swinhoe, 1870)

    Description. Upper parts on color are similar to bactriana and slightly darker, more brownish-grey than on orientalis. White mottling of upper parts is as on orientalis. Male wing length 158-170 (163), female 167-178 (173) mm.
    Distribution. Breeds in Altai, in area of Tarbagatay ridge it presumably intergrades with orientalis.


Gavrilov E. I., Gavrilov A. E. "The Birds of Kazakhstan". Almaty, 2005. В.К.Рябицев. "Птицы Урала, Приуралья и Западной Сибири". Екатеринбург, Изд-во Уральского университета, 2000. Э.И.Гаврилов. "Фауна и распространение птиц Казахстана". Алматы, 1999.



Athene noctua noctua
(Scopoli, 1769)
Athene noctua indigena
(C.L.Brehm, 1855)
Athene noctua bactriana
(Blyth, 1847)
Athene noctua orientalis
(Severtzov, 1873)
Athene noctua plumipes
(Swinhoe, 1870)

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