This top predator is also making a comeback following reintroductions in Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Belgium and Germany. These recovery programmes have received wide acclaim for recovering a species that underwent a significant decline across Europe, along with other top predators such as the wolf and lynx, mainly due to human persecution. Recently, this species has started to colonise urban habitats and is now breeding in several towns and disused quarries in Europe.
Are they a threat to other wildlife?
Eagle owls mostly eat rodents (voles) and Lagomorphs (rabbit and mountain hare, but will also take mustelids, foxes and occasionally fawns. In this country the eagle owl’s main prey appears to be rabbits.
Among birds the most common species eaten are woodpigeons and corvids, and they take a range of water birds. Among the avian predators, though, it is one of the most likely to kill other owls and raptors. The most common raptor in the diet is considered to be the buzzard.
They also take a wide range of other mammals and birds, including raptors; however, the overall impact is unclear. In Bowland, for example, where eagle owls have nested, some other birds of prey continued to nest in the area. In Europe they have been observed killing young and adults of almost all raptors, up to the size of (and including) female goshawks. They are believed to kill for both food and nest defence (they dislike raptors nesting nearby).
Some eagle owls may specialise in killing raptors; one pair in Norway was reported to have killed 13 raptors and owls in one nesting season. In Germany, where the eagle owl has recolonised there is clear evidence of substantive adverse effects on the breeding success of goshawks and buzzards.
In 2010 an eagle owl was caught on film predating a hen harrier. Other species of conservation concern they are known to predate include pine martens, capercaillie, and various raptors and owls
Are they a threat to humans or domestic animals?
They may be aggressive towards people within the breeding territory. This includes some European cities. The species has also believed to take cats and dogs. They have also been known to take lambs, although this appears to be rare
So should we be ‘nipping this in the bud’?
This phrase may be unhelpful. Buzzards are far more numerous than eagle owls in this country, where they are known, for example, to take tawny owls and kestrels. Should we be nipping buzzards in the bud too?
Any studies on gamebird species?