Night owl makes his day­time de­but

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - FRONT PAGE - PAULA HULBURT

Birds of a feather usu­ally flock to­gether but that was not the case for one in­trepid owl who ven­tured out in broad day­light.

Perched high in the branches of a tree above their gar­den, the lit­tle owl did not seem fazed af­ter it was spot­ted in the Wither­lea area of Blen­heim.

Rachael Do­herty’s 10-year-old daugh­ter Ni­amh was play­ing in the gar­den when she first saw the un­ex­pected guest.

The mainly noc­tur­nal bird spent around an hour perched in the tree be­fore even­tu­ally fly­ing off.

Proud mum Rachael said her youngest daugh­ter is a ‘‘huge na­ture lover’’ and was the first to dis­cover the lit­tle owl.

‘‘It was in a shaded wooded area of the gar­den that my youngest daugh­ter Ni­amh was play­ing in when she spot­ted it.

‘‘The owl hung around for about an hour and seemed very tame.

‘‘My daugh­ter even man­aged to do a small video selfie with it,’’ she said.

Un­like the sim­i­lar look­ing more­pork, lit­tle owls are most of­ten seen perched out in the open in mid-af­ter­noon.

They mainly hunt at dawn and dusk, of­ten feed­ing on the ground.

Rachael revealed it was the sec­ond time an owl had been seen near their house.

‘‘We think there must be a meet­ing area nearby as we had one in our palm tree out­side our house about four years ago,’’ she said.

The owls were first in­tro­duced to New Zealand in 1906 from Ger­many by mem­bers of the Otago Ac­cli­ma­ti­sa­tion So­ci­ety.

It was hoped the in­tro­duc­tion of the rap­tors would help keep smaller bird num­bers down af­ter they be­gan to de­stroy valu­able fruit and grain crops.

A to­tal of 219 lit­tle owls were im­ported and re­leased and num­bers spread rapidly.

With the ex­cep­tion of one pair re­leased in Ro­torua, all were lib­er­ated in the South Is­land.

They are more ac­tive dur­ing the day than more­porks, and are can of­ten be seen perched in the open dur­ing day­light hours, on power poles, fence posts, roof-tops or in trees.

‘‘I think he’s a lit­tle owl and not a more­pork as they can also be seen late af­ter­noon whereas more­pork are sen­si­tive to light,’’ said Rachael.

RACHAEL DO­HERTY

A lit­tle owl (Athene noc­tua) spent about an hour in the branches of a tree in the Do­herty fam­ily’s gar­den in Blen­heim.

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