Eagle owls are nesting in downtown Helsinki

Ornithological Society of Helsinki Area – Tringa and BirdLife Finland

Helsinki has witnessed a happy family event when a brood of eagle owls (Bubo bubo) was found on the roof of a local shopping centre in downtown Helsinki. The female is taking care of three chicks, and male has been seen providing food for the small family. This is the first time that eagle owls have been observed breeding in a city centre in Finland.

Marja Saarinen explains: "I followed the life of eagle owls throughout the  winter. I saw them mating four times in December and January. On the 11th of January I noticed that the female had disappeared, meaning that incubation had started. Because Eagle owls incubate their eggs approximately 35 days I estimated that the chicks would be likely to hatch around 14.2.2011 -Valentine’s day. Then, at the end of February I found again the female eagle owl and got my reward for the hard work that I had done observing the owls throughout the winter. I assumed that the bird had chicks underneath, judging by her behaviour and her staying continuously in the nest. Because there was a lot of snow it was difficult to see the nest, but I finally spotted the chicks on the first days of March.

huuhkaja_7.jpgLarge raptors nesting in central city areas is a recent and interesting phenomenon.The first Eagle owls were observed in downtown Helsinki in 2005, and the current estimate for the number of territories is three to four.  “This ‘urbanisation’ of Eagle owls is probably due to a decrease in the persecution of large birds of prey, following the protection laws that were implemented in the 1980s. Owls are not afraid of humans anymore, and due to the recent invasion of wild rabbits in Helsinki, food is abundantly available. Therefore Helsinki is likely to be very attractive for birds of prey” says Raimo Seppälä, a member of the City Owl group of Tringa — the Ornithological Society in the Helsinki Area.

There are no natural predators for eagle owls in Helsinki. Therefore the biggest threat to the nesting couple is unintentional harassment by humans, like snow removal from the roofs, or window washing. Tringa and BirdLife Finland wish that the owls can continue breeding peacefully within the vivid city-scene.  However, anyone wishing to take a sneak peak of the secret family life of eagle owls, can visit the roof terrace of the Sokos Hotel Vaakuna, which provides a view to the nest.

An eagle owl called Bubi attracted worldwide interest when it took part in the Football match between Belgium and Finland in 2007. The current couple doesn’t involve Bubi, as Bubi’s territory is elsewhere – close to the Olympic stadium.

More information:
Researcher Johan Ekroos
+358 50 353 5031

Raimo Seppälä, +358 50 560 4861

Pictures available in http://www.birdlife.fi/tiedotteet/
    * Remeber to mention the name of the photographer

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