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