London's a real hoot after dark, say twitchers

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

A A A

London's nightlife will come under the spotlight in a novel way this summer when the public take part in a survey of the capital's owls.

One might not think of owls as city birds – but they penetrate right into London's heart. Berkeley Square in Mayfair, where the famous but imaginary nightingale sang in the song, has actually been the home of a real tawny owl. In fact, all five regularly breeding species of British owl can be found in Greater London, although two, the short-eared and long-eared owls, are visitors.

The beautiful white barn owl can be found as near the centre as Ealing. The little owl, which hunts in daylight, can be found in the leafier suburbs such as Willesden and Barnes, while the much commoner tawny owl can be found across all 32 London boroughs except for the City of London itself.

The survey, named Owl Prowl 2011, is to be launched in August by the London Wildlife Trust, a quarter of a century after a similar survey recorded 441 owls in London. They consisted of one record each for long-eared and short-eared owls, nine records for little owls, 12 for barn owls and more than 400 for tawny owls. On the basis of that survey, the trust estimated that London had about 100 tawny owl pairs. The new Owl Prowl, which is celebrating the trust's 30th anniversary, is calling on Londoners to record hearing or sighting any owls.

The purpose of the survey is to raise awareness of the city's owl populations and the threat they face owing to loss of habitat. The trust says that many city dwellers are unaware that these shy birds can be found in the capital, usually in tranquil wooded areas.

"Owls have always been present in London, but are rarely heard, let alone seen, by many," said the trust's director of conservation, Mathew Frith. "They have benefited from the improved management of many parks, and the growing maturity of the urban forest of garden trees and railway woodlands. Nevertheless, the loss of brownfield sites and of garden vegetation poses threats to their survival in the inner city."

Finding birds of prey in London is a lot commoner than it used to be. In the 1990s the sparrowhawk became a regular resident of the suburbs, following a course set by the magpie 20 years earlier, and in 1988 a survey of kestrels found that the hovering falcons were nesting in every borough, with a total of 400 pairs across London. The most spectacular birds of prey in the capital are peregrine falcons, with about half a dozen pairs. Three years ago, a pair nested in the Houses of Parliament.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin