Mysterious habits of rare species

Grey owl bewilders Polesie ornithologists

By Mikhail Fedorov

The great grey owl has been a welcome sight in the Ivatsevichi District’s forests, close to Lake Vygonoshchanskoe, being a rare species in Belarus. Sadly, this spring, the small population of this protected bird appears to have failed to breed. Ornithologists began watching possible nesting sites from April; by mid-May, they realised that their hopes were in vain, as the time had been and gone without any eggs being laid. Some assert that lack of food may have caused the owls to refrain from breeding; last winter, field mice — being the owls’ major food source — died due to snow melting and further frosts.

The Deputy Director of the Polesie Agrarian-Ecological Institute at the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, Victor Demyanchik, believes that other birds who eat mice have managed to breed this year, so is uncertain as to the true cause of the rare owl’s lack of offspring. He finds the bird to be full of contradictions, choosing remote places to nest, yet happy to allow people to approach as close as a few metres. Unlike other owls, it hunts during daytime as well as at night and builds nests both on land and in trees. Birds are known to be sensitive to external influences, so ornithologists do their best to monitor habits closely.

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