Rough-legged owl

The smallest representative of the owl family — furry owl. A small bird with rather fluffy plumage, a large head, and a pronounced facial disc. This type of owl does not have feather ears. A distinctive feature of the species is the magnificent plumage on the paws of the bird. The wings of the upland owls are wide and long, the tail of the small upland owls has a remote resemblance to domestic owls, however, the latter lack plumage on their legs.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Rough-legged Owl

Photo: Rough-footed Owl

Aegolius funereus (Rock-footed owl) is a bird belonging to the superorder Neognathae, the family Strigidae (common owl), the genus Aegolius of hairy owls. A species of leggy owl. Upland owls are small birds; the male weighs about 120 grams, the female 200 grams. There are no feather ears on the head of the boreal owl, however, when the bird is frightened, small «horns» from feathers. These birds are characterized by a surprised expression. The eyes are large yellow. The legs have dense plumage. The bird is nocturnal and hunt in the forest. This species was first described by the Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus in 1758.

The species Aegolius funereus includes 4 subspecies, which differ from each other mainly in plumage color:

  • aegolius funereus funereus. Birds of this subspecies have brownish-brown feathers. The feathers have a well-defined white spotted pattern;
  • aegolius funereus magnus. Owls of this species are painted in grayish-brown colors. A spotted pattern is noted in the upper part of the body, in the tail area light spots form stripes; There is a spotted pattern on the back and head. The dark pattern is less pronounced than in other representatives of this species. On the steering feathers, the pattern is intermittent. This subspecies is particularly large;
  • aegolius funereus caucasicus the coloration of birds of this subspecies is dark. The feathers have a pattern of white longitudinal lines. Birds of this subspecies live in the Alps, Mongolia, East China in the taiga from North America to Labrador.

Appearance and features

Photo: What a Rough-legged Owl Looks Like

Photo: What a boreal owl looks like

The boreal owl is a small large-headed bird, the weight of an adult is about 200 grams, the body length of the male is about 205 mm, the female is 240-270 mm. The wingspan of males is 550 mm, females – 580-610 mm. The facial disc is well defined, the tarsus is shortened. The plumage is fluffy moss-like feathers of the mesoptile are poorly structured and are similar in structure to the dedented plumage. The feathers are loose and soft due to this structure of the feathers, the bird can move absolutely silently. Females differ from males in larger size, but the coloration of males and females.

The back of the bird is brownish-gray, it has a pattern of light spots. The belly and underparts are light, on the belly there is a pattern of dark-colored teardrop-shaped mottled. The inner part of the wing is light, the upper surrounding feathers are dark. The flight feathers have three broad stripes of dark color. On the paws the plumage is thick. The facial disc is, as it were, bordered with dark feathers. Above the eyes of the bird, feather protrusions are somewhat reminiscent of eyebrows. There are white feather ridges between the eyes.

Interesting fact: Adults are very different in color from young birds. Chicks that have just left the nest do not have a pattern of dots and mottles on the body and head. Over time, the color of the chicks changes, a beautiful individual color is formed on the body, wings and head.

Vocalization. The calling song of male Rough-footed Owls can be heard in their habitats during the mating season, which lasts from mid-March to mid-May. The song of the owls consists of 5-7 hastily pronounced sounds. They resemble a dull singing «u-fu-fu-fu-fu-fu». The trill lasts a few seconds, then a second pause follows, and another trill begins.

At the sight of a female, the male can sometimes burst into an endless trill, which can last up to 5 minutes. Young fledglings whistle hoarsely «psii» so they show their parents where they are. The lifespan of the hairy owl in the wild is on average about 5-7 years, in captivity these birds can live much longer.

Where does the furry owl live?

Photo: Rough-legged Owl in Russia

Photo: Rough-legged Owl in Russia

The habitat of the boreal owl is quite extensive. In Eurasia, these birds inhabit vast territories from Scandinavia to Kamchatka, Andyr, Sakhalin. And also the species is found in Primorye and on the coasts of the Sea of ​​Okhotsk. To the north, the habitat of birds extends to those places where woody vegetation ends. In central Russia, these birds nest in the Kaluga, Tula, Ryazan regions. In Tyumen and the Urals.

Separate isolated populations inhabit Altai, Tarbagatai, Kentei, Transbaikalia and Primorye. Upland owls are also found in Armenia, Dagestan, Tibet, Piniya. They inhabit the entire center of Europe and the Balkan Peninsula. Populations of the subspecies Aegolius funereus caucasicus range from Alaska to Newfoundland. In the South, owls of this species are found in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Southern Manitoba and Southern New Brunswick. According to ornithologists, in the process of evolution, the owls have developed a certain manner of territorial behavior.

These birds are characterized by partial migration, in which males nest in their usual places, while juveniles and females tend to roam and change nesting sites, while staying within 4-5 km from the previous nesting site. Sometimes females can fly quite far, but later they can return to their usual places. Males guard the place they chose last year.

In places with a warm and temperate climate, legged owls live year-round, and do not migrate. Birds living in the north can fly to warmer places. Upland owls settle in both lowland and mountain forests. They like coniferous forests more, although they are also found in mixed ones. This little owl has a lot of enemies, so the bird never settles in open areas. Birds usually build their nests at a distance of 100-500 meters from each other.

What does the Rough-legged Owl eat?

Photo: North American Stormy Owl

Photo: North American Stormy Owl

Basic Diet horned owl includes:

  • rodents (mice — voles, yellow-throated mice, shrews and others);
  • moles;
  • small squirrels;
  • birds (sparrows, starlings and others);
  • frogs and toads;
  • insects;
  • arthropods.

Upland owl is nocturnal predator. The bird hunts from a perch at a height of about 3 meters above the ground. During the hunt, the owl can sit on one branch for a long time, looking for prey, not finding anything edible, the bird can fly 30-50 meters, and back to take an observation position. Having noticed the prey, the bird tries to imperceptibly approach it as close as possible, the owl attacks when the prey is at a distance of about 4 meters from the predator.

During the attack, the owl flies on the victim, and in a few seconds it grabs the prey with its paws put forward, after which the victim is killed with claws and with the help of beak blows to the head. The Rough-legged Owl is an excellent hunter out of 10 attacks, 8-9 are successful, the victim has practically nowhere to go when attacked, as the owl always tries to catch the victim by surprise.

Interesting fact: During the attack, the Rough-legged Owl closes eyes, the bird does this rather instinctively so that if the victim begins to defend himself, he could not damage the eyes of the predator.

During the meal, the owl swallows the food whole, and the remnants of food in the form of wool, feathers, bones and other things burp in the form of a litter. The Rough-legged Owl is a thrifty bird and makes reserves during the nesting period. These stocks consist mainly of rodents and killed small birds. The predator makes a pantry in its hollow, the number of victims found in hollows is from 2 to 40 pieces. In winter, when it becomes more difficult to hunt rodents, owls prey on tits, bullfinches, thrushes and other birds.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: Owl Bird

Photo: Owl

Rough-legged owls are very sociable and trusting birds that are not at all afraid of people. With the onset of cold weather, owls often fly to cities and towns. Furry-legged owls nest in hollows.

Often they like to coexist with a woodpecker, they can live in the hollows of woodpeckers. Ornithologists have noticed that if the forest is renewed and woodpeckers disappear from it, the horn-legged owls leave the forest with them. The social structure of the owls is undeveloped. During the nesting period, the birds live in pairs, at other times the owls live alone. Nests are arranged in hollows at a height of 2-3 meters above the ground. Both the female and the male take care of the offspring.

Owls are very secretive birds because they have plenty of enemies in the wild. For life, birds choose dark mixed and pine forests, with dense vegetation. Upland owls go hunting only at night. During the day the birds rest in their nests. The maximum activity of the bird falls on the period from 11 pm to 3 am.

Even in the North, where it is quite dark on a cloudy day, the bird is still active only at night. In the south, where the nights are very long, the owls come out to hunt twice in the evening from 20 to 23 o'clock and at night from 2 to 5 o'clock in the morning. The young are active throughout the night. Owls hunt with additives. The bird either eats its prey immediately, or makes a reserve, putting the caught prey in a hollow.

Interesting fact: At the sight of a person, owls do not try to defend themselves, but on the contrary behave very trustingly, despite the fact that owls are forest birds. In captivity, birds quickly adapt to a new life, treat a person well, recognize the owner. Moreover, many birds, after receiving help from humans, do not want to return to the wild and remain in captivity.

Social Structure and Reproduction

Photo: Rough-legged Owl

Photo: Rough-legged Owl

Rough-legged owls reach sexual maturity at the age of one year. The nesting period falls on the end of March-mid-May, it is during this period that you can hear the invocative singing of males. Some time before the start of nesting, males settle in the territory where they have chosen a hollow for themselves. If there are no convenient hollows, owls can also live in artificial nests created by man. Mating takes place a few weeks before laying. Owls mate at night on thick branches or branches of trees. Before laying eggs, the female climbs into the hollow for several days and does not come out of it. She warms the tray with her warmth, since the female is not engaged in lining the nest.

Egg laying usually occurs in early March, and the first chicks are born in early April. Owl eggs are white and ellipsoidal in shape. The average weight of an egg is about 13-15 grams. In a full clutch there are from 3 to 8 eggs. The female is incubating the clutch. the incubation period is about 25-28 days. The female sits tightly on the masonry, and even in danger tries not to leave the nest. The first two chicks usually hatch at the same time, the remaining chicks are born at an interval of about a day.

A newly hatched owlet weighs approximately 8-9 grams. The chicks hatch blind, and begin to see at about 10 days of age. After 13-14 days, the chick keeps well on its feet and is able to get its own food on its own, often the chicks can eat their small and weak counterparts. For the first 2 weeks, only the male brings food, and the female takes care of and feeds the chicks, later the female also goes hunting.

During incubation, the male brings food to the female 2-3 times a night; with chicks, parents bring food from 4 to 14 times a night. The young leave the nest at the age of 30-38 days, at this age the body weight of the chick is 134-167 grams and it is capable of flying with a choice of altitude. In late June – early July, the young under the leadership of the female successfully fly over neighboring forests. Already 10 days after the chicks hatch from the eggs, the female is ready for the next mating, however, the number of broods depends on environmental conditions and the amount of food. A month after the young chicks leave the nest, the brood is divided, and the birds begin an independent life.

Natural Enemies of Furry Owls

Photo: What a horned owl looks like

Photo: What a horny owl looks like

Natural The enemies of the boreal owls are:

  • large birds (hawks, falcons, black grouse, eagle owls, tawny owls and long-eared owls);
  • martens;
  • foxes;
  • cats and dogs.

The boreal owl is a small bird, and these birds often become the prey of larger birds, which is why the boreal owls hunt in places where they can quickly hide from the enemy themselves, and the birds arrange their nests in tree hollows high above the ground. The clutches are often ruined by martens and forest cats.

Rough-legged owls are parasitized by cavity mites of the genus Rhinoecius aegolii Btk. These mites are not dangerous to birds, but they are very poisonous to their lives. In addition, ticks carry many dangerous diseases.

Unfavorable factors that reduce the reproduction of the species include cold weather during the nesting period and long prolonged rains. Also, the population is negatively affected by a decrease in the number of rodents that owls feed on, in the absence of sufficient food, owls may refuse to breed, being afraid not to feed the brood.

Quite often, birds die during cold snowy winters, as they have nothing to eat and they fly to settlements in search of food. In settlements, birds can be found in parks and squares. Many birds that have arrived in cities from forests often die from collisions with vehicles.

Population and species status

Photo: Horny Owl

Photo: Rough-footed Owl

The population of this species is quite numerous, the birds feel good in the wild and multiply rapidly. A female can produce several broods in one season.

Conservation status of the species — species of least concern, however, given that in recent years, the population of these birds has become smaller ornithologists closely monitor these birds. To account for the population of this species, birds are registered by their voices during the current period. In order to preserve the population, artificial nesting sites are created in places of reforestation. Hollows and nests are created in places protected from martens at a height of 2-3 meters above the ground.

To preserve the population, it is recommended to stop cutting down perennial forests with a high forest area where these birds are used to settling. To equip reserves, green zones in cities and towns. Due to deforestation in many areas, the population of the species has declined significantly. Perhaps the birds simply moved from these places, with the advent of civilization to their usual habitats, and the rejuvenation of the forest. In general, in Russia, the population of the species is not threatened by anything and the species does not need special protection.

The long-legged owl is a wonderful bird with a calm and trusting character. In the ecosystem, owls play a very important role, as they are forest orderlies and regulate the number of mouse-like rodents. The birds themselves are food for larger birds and other predators. In captivity, furry-legged owls feel good, quickly get used to the owner, and make strong friendship with him for a long time.

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