Eagle-owl makes comeback in Flanders

Summary

Having crossed the border from Germany, the eagle-owl has finally been spotted in Flanders again after dying out 70 years ago

Once extinct

The eagle-owl, one of the largest owl species in the world, is making a comeback in Flanders after suffering full extinction, according to Flemish nature conservancy organisation Natuurpunt.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the local breeding population of eagle-owls decreased drastically, and after the Second World War, became fully extinct due to shooting and poisoning. Eagle-owls were part of a large-scale breeding programme in Germany, and the species spread into Belgium in the 1980s. In Wallonia, measures to protect birds of prey have allowed the species to grow steadily in Wallonia, and there are now some 140 pairs in the region today.

Since 2005, eagle-owls have also been breeding in Flanders. Natuurpunt thinks there are seven breeding pairs in Limburg province, and, in just the last year, breeding pairs have been seen in both Flemish Brabant and Antwerp provinces.

The comeback of the eagle-owl is remarkable as the species reproduces in mountainous regions or rocky slopes, laying eggs in “scrapes” – crevices or indentations in the ground. They have also been known to settle in old stone quarries and the nests of other birds of prey.

The eagle-owl is known for its hunting ability and eats other birds and small mammals, such as hedgehogs and rabbits, which poses no threat to the balance of the local ecosystem.

Photo: Dick Daniels/Wikimedia