Scops Owl

Otus scops

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The scops owl is a small owl and grows to the size of a blackbird. However, when it straightens its body and raises its ear tufts, it appears significantly larger and more impressive. The ear tufts do not help with hearing, instead they are most likely important for courtship display and communication. They are relatively short and are often generally kept lowered. Thus, the bird appears small and compact and can be mistaken for the little owl. The scops owl is sexually monomorphic. The plumage colour varies between different brown and grey tones with white spots. It strongly resembles tree bark and is thus superbly camouflaged. The toes are featherless, while the eyes are yellow and the beak is grey. The wings are relatively long whereas the tail is rather short. The scops owl is a crepuscular bird and is most active shortly before midnight. They inhabit warm, dry variegated landscapes with old trees and low ground cover providing ample and diverse habitats. They require holes in trees or walls and gladly adopt nesting boxes. The scops owl's main source of food comprises large insects, less commonly small mammals, amphibians or reptiles. They generally hunt from a perched position and less commonly whilst in direct flight. Scops owls are only occasionally spotted in Germany as a result of occasional migratory interruptions. They are commonly distributed northwards of the Mediterranean as far as Russia and they winter in the African savannahs. During a mating season, they form monogamous pairs. The clutch usually consists of 3 to 5 white, short oval-shaped eggs, which are incubated solely by the females for an average of over 24 days while the male hunts for food. Both parents provide for their young until they are independent, around day 60. Fascinatingly, the call of the scops owl sounds noticeably similar to that of the common midwife toad.

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