Reintroduction of the Ural Owl in the Austrian Alps

While in Eastern Europe and in the northern areas of Scandinavia and Siberia, the Ural Owl cannot be considered rare, in its more western distribution area (Eastern Italian Alps, Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic), the species became practically extinct at the beginning of the last century. 

In 1970, the first reintroduction project was initiated in the Nationalpark Bayerischer Wald in Germany, followed, in 1991, by the adjoining  Sumava Park in the Bohemian wilderness (Czech Republic). Both projects were successful and now, about 1,000 km2 in the two parks and surrounding areas are inhabited by the species. 

In 2009, the Ecology Department of the University of Vienna launched an ambitious project to reintroduce the species into the wild in two areas of the Austrian Alps where it had once lived. To this end, breeding centres, whichwould be able to supply individuals capable of surviving in the wild, were selected; one of these was the Monticello Centre. 

Over  fourteen owls where release since  2009, of which were juveniles hatched between 2009 and 2012 and contributed by the Centro Monticello. One of these - a female hatched in 2010 – was monitored via a tracking device fitted on her back; she covered a good 100km before establishing herself in her territory. 

The project is proving so successful that already in the Spring of 2011, the first instance of breeding in the wild of a pair of released birds was recorded. 2012 was a rewarding year: the abundance of micro mammals, the staple food of this species, contributed favourably to the season. As many as eight pairs bred and 18 juveniles fledged.

 

The male of the most productive pair, which raised a good 5 young, was hatched at the Monticello Centre!