Zorka is a small owl that differs from other representatives of owls not only in its size. She calmly relates to the neighborhood with a person, often choosing city parks and squares among her habitats. This owl is also special for its habits, lifestyle and nuances of feeding and hunting.
Origin of the species and description
Ordinary dawn or, as it is also called by the people, splyushka is a bird from the owl family, the genus is scoops.
This family is inhabited by such well-known genera as:
- eared owls ;
- tawny owls;
- eagle owls.
These birds are difficult to distinguish from other genera of scoops. But they are distinguished by the absence of a goiter, in which undigested food is stored in birds – this is how birds feed their chicks or feed themselves if they are hungry. Scoop birds cannot retain food inside themselves for a long time, which largely justifies their way of life. Also, the scoop genus has a long caecum, which at the same time allows them to remain full and energetic for a long time even in the absence of available food.
The genus of the scoop can also be recognized by the following featured:
- the facial disc is defective – these are white feathers that clearly ring the area around the eyes and beak of some owls (for example, the golden owl);
- small feather ears;
- fingers part have short stiff bristles;
- camouflage color – yellow, brown or gray with many interspersed with dark spots that make these owls invisible against the background of tree bark or foliage;
- dense, compact build, making even large owls are small and inconspicuous.
All representatives of the scoop genus are nocturnal predators that feed on mammals or other small birds. Cutworms are widespread almost all over the world and rarely have conservation status.
Appearance and features
Dawns are small owls, whose body size varies about 15-20 cm, weight is about 60-130 g. The wingspan is 50 cm, which is a lot, relative to the small body of an owl. Such a big difference allows the owl to make long flights and skillfully fly through dense forest trees. Females do not differ from males, occasionally you can notice that the male is larger.
Dawns have a gray-brown color with black patches in the form of spots and short stripes. You can see the facial disc, consisting of downy, soft feathers – it is ringed with a black stripe, which is interrupted at the beak, and the disc smoothly passes into gray chest feathers. The belly of an owl is lighter than the color of the back. At the top, the facial disc forms small downy ears. In general, the feathers of the dawn are predominantly downy and soft, with the exception of the feathers of the tail, back and wings, which provide it with flight.
Interesting fact: The bird got its name because of its cry, which is similar to the drawn out word “sleep”. Such a cry can be heard at night – the bird repeats it with a pause of 2-3 seconds.
Dawn feathers may slightly change color depending on the season – this is due to the degree of humidity: wings absorb moisture and acquire a more brown, brown hue. The tail of the dawn is short, because the bird does not need to maneuver during the flight. The eyes are yellow with black pupils.
An interesting fact: You can understand her mood from the pupils of owls: a thick pupil – the bird is interested; overly thin – scared and trying to become as invisible as possible.
Dawns have strong paws with thin claws. They are covered with rare small brown spots and, if the individual is young, with an impressive layer of down. Sometimes adults have some down on their paws.
Where does the dawn live?
Dawn is widespread in many countries of the world, the population is also supported by the fact that it migrates to warmer climes for the winter.
Most often, the bird can be found in the following places:
- throughout Europe;
- southern Siberia;
- Asia Minor;
- mountainous region of Central Asia;
- Near East ;
- North Africa (birds spend their winters here);
The color of the dawn is oriented towards camouflage in forest conditions, so the birds settle in deciduous forests; they are not afraid of people, so they can be found in landscaped parks, woodlands, gardens; sometimes dawns settle in pine forests if there is not enough food in deciduous forests. In warmer regions, they choose olive groves or fly to the mountains up to 3 thousand meters above sea level.
Dawns like to settle in humans, because in this way they are less exposed to danger from predators and pose a minimal threat to agriculture (dawns do not hunt chickens). Therefore, sometimes they choose plantations or copses near dachas and villages.
Interesting fact: Sometimes, settling in the city, dawns are attacked by crows, and in order for an owl to survive in such a situation, often human intervention required.
For the winter, she flies to South Africa around August or September with the first cold weather and settles in the tropics or near the Sahara desert. It returns to Russia in April, the breeding season falls in May or July, less often in August, if its habitat is located in the northern parts of the country.
For shelter, the owl chooses natural hollows in trees, crevices in rocks or abandoned nests of other small birds. The dawn herself does not know how to dig holes – she only equips a new dwelling with branches, dry grass and her own fluff.
What does the dawn eat?
Unlike larger owls, the dawn owl preys on small animals.
Its diet is more likely to include:
- butterflies and fat beetles, larvae;
- small frogs;
- small nocturnal birds;
- mice, rarely adult mice.
She also hunts in a peculiar way, different from other owls. While other types of owls prefer to swoop down on their prey from above, tracking it from the air, the dawn sits on a branch, as if in ambush. When she sees a suitable prey, the owl begins to actively turn her head to look at it from all sides and make sure that this is the food she needs. If a dawn sees a flock of nocturnal insects, it may not hide, but will simply start chasing everyone at once, eating them on the fly. But more often, a bird catches one prey and carries it in its paw to a branch, and only then eats it.
Interesting fact: Dawn, like other predators, starts eating prey from the most nutritious part – from the head.
The bristles around the owl's beak are very sensitive. If the victim in her paw is still alive, she is in no hurry to start the meal, but first, as it were, feels it with her beak, closing her eyes. She does this to understand that her prey is not dangerous, and closed eyes do not allow the victim to attack the owl in a vulnerable place. Zorka is picky about food, so if she feels the wings of an insect, she first of all tears them off. Zorek are kept at home, where their diet acquires a huge variety.
The owl's home diet includes:
- frozen mice, chickens, which are cut into small pieces. Owls do not like the meat of adult animals, as it is tough and difficult to digest;
- vegetable feed spring-summer period. Strawberries, raspberries, pears, apples, grapes, melon, chopped dandelion, acacia;
- insects eaten by the owl in the wild: grasshoppers and locusts, cockchafer larvae, bronze, crickets, cockroaches, flour beetle larvae , ant pupae – the owl eats all this with great pleasure and in any quantities;
- for calcium, owls are given cottage cheese mixed with a chicken egg, carrots and buckwheat. Birds also eat white bread soaked in cow's milk.
Character and lifestyle features
Like many birds of prey, the dawn is a loner. During the day, she hides in bushes, hollows or nests near tree trunks, where she remains invisible due to camouflage. The owl can stretch its body and raise its ears in such a way that it becomes like a tree bough – it is very difficult to notice it in this position.
At night, the dawn descends to hunt and sits in ambush in the trees. She is careless and trusting of a person. Out of her curiosity, she lets people get very close to her, which makes her easy to catch – the owl does not always have time to take off in time.
Interesting fact: In fact, the dawn sees perfectly both day and night, but during the day it is in danger and becomes too noticeable when flying; but in complete darkness, the owl stumbles upon objects and hardly sees.
When flying in open spaces, the owl prefers to maneuver as far as its body constitution allows it. Because of the frequent flapping of its wings, it looks like a very large butterfly. Also, an owl can hover in the air, catching gusts of wind, like large birds of prey.
Dawns rarely cry, mostly during the mating season. When frightened or approaching danger, the owl emits a loud cry, reminiscent of a cat's squeal – this is how it notifies the chicks or nearby owls of approaching predators. A female that is being pulled from a nest with chicks may emit a muffled menacing hiss.
Owls can be bought in nurseries for home keeping. Dawns quickly get used to a person and begin to recognize him as their friend: they willingly sit on him, play, feed from their hands. Dawns are playful owls that love to fiddle with scraps of fabric and torn paper. They are the easiest to keep compared to other owls, because they are small in size, not picky about food, and all they need from equipment is a warm room and a few comfortable perches.
Social structure and reproduction
During the mating season, birds are especially talkative: they begin to constantly call to each other and shout for 10-13 minutes. During this time, females seek out males for themselves, talk to each other. After such negotiations, the male flies to the female, and they form a seasonal pair.
Interesting fact: Dawns are one of the few birds where the mating season passes without lengthy rituals.
The nest is located either in a hollow and an abandoned nest of other birds, or on the ground, in dense thickets or among stones. The female lays 3-6 eggs, which she insulates with her own fluff, and the male brings branches and leaves for the nest. While the dawn is incubating the eggs, the male brings her food. When the chicks hatch, the parents immediately start feeding them. Since the zorek do not have a goiter with which they could regurgitate food for the chicks, the male tears the insect into small pieces. The chicks appear completely blind, but with excellent hearing, with which they recognize their parents.
When the chicks are 11 days old, they can eat small insects whole. On the 21st day of life, the chicks try to fly out of the nest, and the most indecisive ones are pushed into the air by their parents. It is extremely rare that chicks fall and die – in most cases, such flights are successful. Parents circle the flying chicks and see to it that their first flight goes well.
Fun fact: Ornithologists believe that dawns pair for life, but because of their migratory habits owl life is hard to prove.
Parents accompany the chicks until they reach the age of 2-3 months. All the time they follow the flights of children and teach them how to hunt: for example, they show that there are often many insects near lanterns and other light sources. Owls reach sexual maturity at the age of 10 months. In the wild, dawns live 6-7 years, in captivity they can live up to 10-12.
Natural enemies of the dawn
The owl does not have many enemies, as it is nocturnal, rarely descends to the ground (only during the nesting period) and is a predator.
However, sometimes there are collisions with other animals, such as:
- hawks, kites – they can accidentally spot a dawn in the daytime;
- foxes, raccoons, ferrets find ground nests of dawns, especially like to eat eggs;
- rats also ruin owl nests
A separate enemy of zorek is to designate flocks of crows. Dawns often settle in the city, where they encounter resistance from these territorial birds. Ravens recognize the dawn as a predator, so they believe that it can be a threat to them and their chicks. Therefore, crows often attack dawn, which makes owls flee even during the day.
It is mainly because of the crows that the dawn ends up in nurseries and at home. Wounded birds are found by people who rehabilitate them, but after such incidents, dawns, especially young individuals, are not able to take root in the wild, therefore they remain with humans. There is no intentional trapping of zorek for home keeping or breeding them in nurseries.
Population and species status
Dawn is a bird that has no commercial value for humans, is not an object of sport hunting. However, due to the destruction of forests, its population has significantly decreased, although it is not threatened. Thanks to the migratory way of life, dawns successfully survive many human interventions in nature.
In 2008, the dawn was listed in the Red Book of the Moscow Region, protected in the Krasnoyarsk Territory and the Smolensk Region. But in the international classification of Otus Scops, the owl is listed as a species that does not need protection and is not under threat of extinction.
Special nesting sites in the form of artificial hollows in trees are provided as protective measures for dawn birds. Dawns are resettled in reserves, they try to breed in zoos, but in captivity they are reluctant to breed.
Dawn is one of the most unusual birds of prey. With her secretive lifestyle, she is open to contact with people, curious and playful; Dawns are now successfully breeding in protected areas, and their population is increasing.