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Home  > News  > Watch Out, Hedwig – World's Biggest Owl Found Breeding In England

Watch Out, Hedwig – World's Biggest Owl Found Breeding In England

November 17 2005

The Harry Potter books may have brought owls into the imagination of anyone who has read them, but did you know that the world's biggest owl is breeding not at Hogwarts, but at a secret location in England?

A pair of rare eagle owls have been breeding for the past few years somewhere on the North York Moors and conservationists have found they have had at least 23 baby owls since 1997.

Photo of an eagle owl.

They know this because they've been attaching rings to the new owls' legs.

The rings don't hurt the birds, but make it much easier to identify which is which and keep a track of how many there are in total.

Photo: © Bas Stoffelsen

Eagle owls are about knee-high to an adult human and have a two-metre wingspan - that's the length from wingtip to wingtip when they are fully stretched out.

Not everyone is sure that eagle owls should be in England at all, however. Some people think they could attack and eat other rare creatures and are even capable of carrying off cats and small dogs.

Others say that although the current eagle owls are thought to have come from somewhere on the main part of Europe, this type of owl used to live in Britain hundreds of years ago but were hunted to extinction. This would mean that they would be able to fit back into Britain's countryside without causing any big problems for other animals or plants.

Hedwig, the owl belonging to Harry Potter in the books, is a snowy owl.

Snowy owls are incredibly rare in Britain.

Photo: © Florian Engels

Photo of a snowy owl.

There are many different types of owl throughout the world and along with the newly discovered eagle owls there are barn owls, tawny owls, long-eared owls and little owls breeding in the UK. Do you know if there are any owls living near you?

If you want to find out more about owls then you can get involved with the Tawny Owl Survey, organised by the British Trust for Ornithology.

Photo of a tawny owl.

Ornithology (birdwatching) can be great fun and the survey will find out how many tawny owls there are across the country compared with the last survey they made in 1989.

Photo: © Cop Richard

The winter months are a good time to listen out for their calls - click here to find out what a Tawny Owl sounds like.

This will help them to find out if tawny owls are in danger or are increasing in numbers. You can also become involved with Garden Bird Watch, a year round survey of Britain's birds.

On the Planet Arkive website, you can find out loads of amazing facts about all kinds of birds (and animals, and plants!), including the Tawny Owl and the Barn Owl.

Image: © Planet Arkive

Screenshot from Planet Arkive site, with their logo and an owl sitting next to a pile of books, holding a magnifying glass.

Although owls are beautiful birds they are very difficult to keep as pets and need large aviaries (bird houses) to live in.

Only experts should think about keeping them. Most owls eat mice and small animals - would you like to have to feed a dead mouse to a big hungry owl with a sharp beak and claws?

Graham Spicer