Eurasian Eagle-owl, a member of the family of true owls, lives in the European, North American and Asian mountain forests. It is one of the largest European owls and can grow up to 65 cm. They are recognisable by their feather muff (»auricle«) on their head and bright orange iris. Males are somewhat larger than females. If they spread their wings they can be even as long as 1,5 metres. They have black and brown spots, legs are covered with feathers and they have extremely strong claws. Their life expectancy is 20 years. If held in captivity, they can live for 60 years. The male´s weight is 1550-2800g, while the females weigh is 2280-4200g.
The Eurasian Eagle-owl most often lives in dry, rocky and steep walls, located on high altitudes. They become attached to the wall – their daytime resting place and their nest – for their entire life. Urban landscapes are also an important element of their habitat. This allows them to quickly find a pray, as they are watching from high areas with a clear overview. They also nest in the Alps, even on altitudes of 2100 m.
The Eurasian Eagle-owl is predominately a nocturnal predator. It is most active in hours after dawn and before dusk. They mostly eat mammals (field mice, rats, mice, foxes, rabbits…) although they also eat other birds, such as ravens, ducks, grouses, sea birds and other birds of prey (including other owls). They also hunt snakes, lizards, frogs, fish and crabs.
This bird claims and protects its territory and emits loud sounds. This sound can be heard far into the distance. Males produce a deep, resonating hoo-hoo, with the emphasis on the first syllable. Females, on the other hand, emit a higher pitched voice with an extended hoo-hoo sound.
The Eurasian Eagle-owl typically nests in rock faces, which is also one of the key elements of its 10 km2 large territory. The couple usually builds its nest on top of a cliff or a ledge, between rocks or in some other hidden place. In forests with dense vegetation they nest on the ground. Often between roots of larger trees, under big bushes and fallen tree trunks. The nest hasn´t got a specific structure (no grounding, twigs…). The nest usually contains two eggs. The male is brooding the eggs 31-16 days. When the hatchlings hatch the female stays with them for the next two weeks. During this time the male brings food into the nest. After three weeks the hatchlings are already feeding on their own and are capable of eating bits of animal flesh. Around the 5th week the hatchlings are walking around the nest. Around two months they are capable of flying short distances. The female takes care of the offspring and provides them food until they are independent – until the 24th week. They reach sexual maturity at the age of three.
It is estimated that approximately 150 owl couples nest in Slovenia. Although they often live in rural areas the European Eagle-owl is very timid in sensitive if people come near its nest. Even the slightest disturbance can cause them to abandon the nest. These animals are highly protected as from 2006 they are on IUCN-s Red List of Threatened Species.