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There was adopted an upgraded protection plan for one of the rarest Strigiformes species in Estonia, the Eurasian eagle owl

The Eurasian eagle owl. Photo: Renno Nellis
The Eurasian eagle owl. Photo: Renno Nellis

To safeguard the survival of the eagle owl in our wildlife, we need to study and reduce nest plundering and avoid spring timber harvesting in coastal pine forests.

The Eurasian eagle owl is one of the largest Strigiformes species in Estonia, nesting mostly in old pine forests on the Estonian coastal areas. It is estimated that 30-50 couples of eagle owls live in Estonia, but it is well-known that each year only less than 10 couples breed.

“Unfortunately, this powerful owl is doing poorly in Estonia and the precise reasons are not known, why is this so. One of the reasons may be the increasing human activity in coastal areas, which disturbs the owls during the breeding season. What is more, some small predators, such as wild boars, martens and other predators, who eat bird eggs and nestlings, also endanger the nests of the birds nesting directly on the ground,” explained Marju Erit, Manager of the Species Protection Bureau of the Environmental Board. The decrease in the number of the eagle owl's former main prey, the vole, will also negatively impact the owl’s living conditions. For the number of species is very limited, when one of the partners of the couple dies, the other partner no longer is able to find a companion and therefore will produce no offspring.

One of the most important activities in the eagle owl conservation action plan is to search for the nesting sites by applying the habitat model, after which the habitats appropriate for the bird may be conserved. As of today, most of the known habitats of eagle owls in Estonia are under protection, located primarily in the state land.

Even in coastal pine forests outside the protected areas, forest owners might refrain from spring timber harvesting, as some habitats for the eagle owl have not yet been determined and spring harvesting brings about the nesting failure. If forest walkers notice an eagle owl in spring or early summer, it is recommended to retreat quietly – then the bird will not escape from the nest. It is suggested that larger orienteering and hiking events in the coastal pine forests might be organized from the second half of the summer, so as not to disturb this rare bird. The eagle owl nesting forests are often good forests for berry and mushroom picking, but picking these gifts in the foreground will not bother the owls anymore – by this season, nesting is nearly finished.

Many eagle owl habitats are equipped with newly installed trail cameras, and soon nest cameras will be installed for the identification of the nest plunderers. The number of small predators endangering the eagle owls in their respective area should be controlled, if necessary. To discover the cause of the death of eagle owls, it is also important to examine the dead bodies, including the determination of the level of lead originated from lead shots and the poison content in the birds, used to control rodents.

The long-term protection aim in the 15-year term is to increase the number of eagle owls in Estonia to at least 70 couples. The aim for the coming couple of years is to maintain the current number of eagle owls at the same level.

"We must do our best to assure that our grandchildren may too meet an eagle owl in the nature and that the zoo would not become the only home in Estonia for this majestic bird," added Marju Erit.

More information:
Marju Erit
Manager of the Species Protection Bureau of the Environmental Board
telephone: 5649 6373

Sille Ader
Spokesperson for the Environmental Board
telephone: 5745 0332

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