Scops Owl

    In collaboration with farmers, the Swiss Ornithological Institute tries to enhance food availability for Scops Owls.

    Aims

    The Scops Swl is a typical species of the traditionally used farmland in the Valais. It was once wide spread in orchards and meadows around villages, in valleys and on slopes up to 1100 m a.s.l. It primarily feeds on insects such as crickets and grasshoppers. In the last 50 years, vineyards have been extended and farmland has intensified. As a result, number of Scops Owls has dramatically decreased. Since a few years, the population is again increasing. Between Sion and Brig, there are currently 20 to 30 singers.

    Approach

    The intensification of meadows has led to strong decreases in species numbers and densities of insects and other farmland species. It is therefore vital to save the last meadows, in which intensification has not yet taken place. The Swiss Ornithological Institute supports a management regime enhancing insect availability for the Scops Owl: herbaceous strips along meadows serve as refuges for insects and other animals during mowing. The first half of each strip is mown in autumn to prevent scrub encroachment. The remainder is not mown and serves as over wintering habitat for various insects. The collaboration with ecological network projects allows centralizing the measures to promote the species.  In parallel to improving food availability, the Swiss Ornithological Institute has increased nest site availability for Scops Owls. Currently, more than 120  nest boxes are available. They are safe from marten and thereby reduce predation on Scops Owl clutches.

    Significance

    The Scops Owl is one of the most threatened bird species breeding in Switzerland. The aim of the recovery programme is to prevent the remnant population in the Valais from disappearing. If successful. the measures of this programme could be implemented in other regions (Ticino, Grisons), where Scops Owls are being reported each spring since the beginning of the 1990s.

    Project management

    Jean-Nicolas Pradervand

    Partners

    Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN)
    Kanton Wallis
    Swiss Association for the Protection of Birds SVS/BirdLife Switzerland
    Conservation Biology, University of Bern

    Publications