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Eagle owl still rare in Norway

Target

1.2 No species or habitat types will become extinct or be lost, and the status of threatened and near-threatened species and habitat types will be improved.

Indicator

Status of specific threatened species

Are we moving in the right direction? Published by the Norwegian Environment Agency

The eagle owl is Norway’s largest owl, and was a common breeding species throughout Norway until the late 1800s. Hunting resulted in a steep population decline. The decline has continued despite the fact that eagle owls have been protected since 1971. The main stronghold of the species is now along the west coast of Norway from Vest-Agder to as far north as Nordland. 

The most recent estimate of the Norwegian eagle owl population, published by the Norwegian Ornithological Society, is 450–680 pairs. Numbers appear to be more or less stable in several counties, including Nordland and Rogaland, which are core areas for the species, but there are no clear indications that numbers are rising in any of the counties. 

The eagle owl’s large wingspan combined with its habit of using the cross arms of pylons as look-out posts when hunting makes it very vulnerable to electrocution. This is considered to be the most serious threat to the species today. Other important factors behind the continuing drop in numbers are declining populations of prey species, human disturbance early in the breeding season and habitat disturbance and degradation caused by the construction of roads, holiday cabins and wind farms. 

In 2009, Norway published an action plan for the eagle owl listing various measures that can improve the status of the species. Power lines cover much of Norway, and pylons for power lines with a voltage of 22–132 kV are particularly dangerous to eagle owls because of their design. The most important measure in the action plan is to insulate dangerous parts of pylons and transformers near known breeding sites. 

Population surveys should also be continue to obtain better data on numbers in each county. Monitoring programmes have been established in several parts of Norway the action plan has been implemented. It is also essential to take eagle owls and their needs more fully into account in land-use planning and to avoid disturbance early in the breeding season. In some parts of Nordland, American mink may be culled to relieve pressure on prey species and give eagle owls a more stable food supply.