Three rare owls have found a new home at a Swiss zoo that is reintroducing the nocturnal birds to Austria where they have been considered extinct for decades.
There have been efforts for up to 10 years to reintroduce the Ural owl (Strix uralensis) species to Austria, where they have been considered extinct since the mid-20th century and Zurich zoo in Switzerland says that it “is stepping up its commitment to protecting the species”.
In a statement obtained by Newsflash, the zoo said: “The owl embodies the fascinating characteristics of many owl species in its behaviour, anatomy and biology.”
The zoo said that owls are nocturnal hunters and that “by shifting their phases of activity primarily to twilight and night, owls have gotten rid of their food competition that was active during the day.
“There were many physical adaptations associated with the nocturnal lifestyle. Owls have excellent ears, sometimes even with asymmetrical ear openings, in order to be able to locate the prey animals better through their noises. The broad head and a face veil, which directs the sound towards the ears, also support sound perception.
“Owls’ eyes are forward-facing, which enables binocular vision. Although the eyes themselves are immobile, owls can turn their head with 14 cervical vertebrae by up to 270 degrees, which greatly increases their field of vision.”
The zoo explained that Ural owls are silent hunters, saying: “In order to be able to fly to the prey unnoticed, the owls resort to another trick: a silent flight.
“The feathers of the owls are velvety and fine and the edges of the hand feathers are frayed. Together with the ability to fly slowly, this ensures that the air around the feathers is little swirled and the flight is almost noiseless.
“Forest owls such as the Ural Owl are mostly hunters who stalk their prey. Once spotted, the owl flies towards the prey at a low altitude and grabs by strong claws. Species of owls that prefer open landscapes often go on stalking flights to spot prey. They spot the prey during the flight and then hunt it down.”
The zoo explained that while they can easily be found from northern Europe to Russia and Japan, there are some places where the animals have become extinct. The statement said: “The Ural owl has a continuous distribution from Northern Europe via Russia to Japan. While there are still populations of Ural owls in Eastern Europe, they have become extinct in our neighboring countries Austria and Germany. Ural owls were never native to Switzerland.”
Speaking about the reintroduction programme, the zoo said: “With the owls that have just arrived at Zurich Zoo, the zoo hopes to have young animals in the future. These are then handed over to the reintroduction project in Austria.”
Zurich Zoo, who released this footage showing a Ural owl, added that Ural owls were native to Austria until the mid-20th century, but since then, “they have been considered extinct.”
The zoo said that there had been attempts for over a decade to reintroduce the species to Austria, saying: “A reintroduction project has been attempting since 2009 to re-establish a stable population of owl owls. However, this requires many young birds.
“Forty-nine breeding pairs are currently breeding in 32 zoos and breeding stations for these releases. By September 2019, 428 birds had already been released in the Vienna Woods Biosphere Park and in the Duerrenstein wilderness area.
“Successful natural broods have also been observed again since 2011.”
The zoo added that “2017 was the most successful breeding year so far with 18 proven pairs. The young animals from Zurich Zoo will expand the local population and contribute to the long-term survival of the species.”
The Ananova page is created by and dedicated to professional, independent freelance journalists. It is a place for us to showcase our work. When our news is sold to our media partners, we will include the link here.