Occurrence and habitat of Eurasian Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium passerinum) in Brandenburg

Eurasian Pygmy-OwlThis small owl is the sole member in Europe of a worldwide spread genus Glaucidium. The owl inhabits mainly the coniferous forest zone, especially the upland and mountain areas up to the tree line in Central Europe. But in the 19th Century this owl was widespread distributed in all the mountain ranges of central Europe and their forelands and well represented in the North German / Polish lowlands at many locations.

In the german Red List of breeding birds the pygmy owl is classified as
regular breeding native bird species but regarded as “rare”. In the last decades the population trend is positive, this is ture for the long term and at many sites for the short term, too. Additionally there are more and more records from the lowlands in recent years. A nearly comprehensive investigation in Niedersachsen (Lower Saxonia) in (2001/2002) resulted in a population count of 170-230 pairs. Particularly important here is the well established lowland population in the Lüneburger Heide (Heath), where the first records date back as far as 1977. Now (2001/2002) 23 – 35 pairs defend their territories.

More than one reason to investigate the situation in Brandenburg a state with a landscape very comparable in many topographical aspects. A similar development trend is also emerging in Brandenburg, whose maximum height is about 200 meters n. NN is. Secured older records ‘before 1990 are not available for the state. Since the first reliable records of the Eurasian Pygmy-Owl in the 1990s some areas, particularly in the south of Brandenburg were studied in greater detail. These studies did show that the species is already established in the central forest complexes. In the timeframe of 1996 – 2008 a total of 10 breeding pairs in 4 areas were recorded. In the years 2006 to 2008 10 to 13 males had permanently territories.

Similar habitat structures were examined in the eastern Brandenburg by Hagen Deutschmann and Torsten Spitz. The two ornitholgists focussed on areas in the catchment of the former Truppenuebungsplatz (TOP) which means a military training area with the beautiful name Lieberose.
They examined the Western part of TOP with marshes and moorland protected a nature reserve called “NSG Lieberoser moraine” than the eastern part of the TOP which covers 2 nature reserves called NSG “Pinnower Laeuche and Tauersche Eichen”. The 3rd area was the nature reserve „Fichtengrund/ Große Goehlenze”. A fourth focus was set inside the Naturpark (Natural Park) Schlaubetal near the lake “Wirchensee”
These areas are clearly separated from each other (5-10 km) but belong to a forest complex, which is about 350 km² in size.

In 2000, only by chance a calling Eurasian Pygmy-Owl could be detected during research on the detection of Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus). This happened western part of the Truppenuebungsplatz (TOP) Lieberose. But in the consequence of the studies carried out, it turns out that the NSG “Pinnower Laeuche and Tauersche Eichen” is currently the area with the highest population density in whole Brandenburg. The research resulted in 5 territories on 1,533 ha. All the territories were located in the midst of the large, continuous forests. These habitats are remnants of formerly large natural forests of Lower Lusatia. Today mostly pine trees cover the forested areas. Principle, and consistent for all forest areas, the following conditions must be present for potential settlements: A diverse habitat mosaic as possible with a multilayered structure in bars and waste wood and dense stands of conifers, which are used as cover or rest areas. A light canopy closure of the old stock in combination of quite an open structure of the forest is a prerequisite for a diverse herb layer, which contributes to the protection of the owl´s basic food (small mammals and small birds). These animals ensure a year-round full food supply.
Monotonous, even-aged stands – an expanse of high forests, vast clearcuts and dense young forests – will be avoided.
All the regular territories were located in large and secluded forest complex, which are connected to each other.

The colonization of Brandenburg could be a consequence of the current tendency of expansion in Europe. The pygmy owl is now a breeding bird in almost all mountain forests of the lower mountainous areas in Germany. Increased observations are recorded in mixed and coniferous forests of the hills and lowlands. Also in neighboring states and countries. As a migration corridor for the expansion to southern Brandenburg a North-Western orientation from the direction of the Elbsandsteingebirges (Elbe Sandstone Mountains) passing the Oberlausitz (Upper Lusatia) is discussed.
Furthermore, an exchange with the Pygmy-Owls on the Polish side of the Brandenburg forests is likely.

As reasons for this positive development is assumed that the depth of the population of the owl in the low mountains of the mid-1950s to mid-1970s, has a reason similar to the Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) in Central Europe. This means a big effect would have been by DDT contamination
The Abandonmend in the early 1970s and improved habitat quality in the low mountain ranges by changing forestry and timber harvesting practices, but also the death of larger forest stands in the course of “acid rain” could have led to the positive population trend recorded right now.

For conservation reasons we, Torsten Spitz and Hagen Deutschmann recommend to use the support of a tape recorder for density investigation. This allows to determine the territories from late February to early April at sunset with relatively little expenditure of time. If Eurasian Pygmy-Owl call, the investigator should also listen to the calling females. They mention, that it is absolutely necessary to persue a follow-up, which allows a realistic allocation status.
A cavity search might be an additional idea but is recommended only in females territories. It means a great expenditure of time. But If you are prepared to do so, pay attention to the begging calls of young birds, too. A good indicator but the calls perceives only over a short distance.

In a paper by my colleague, Torsten Spitz, and me – Hagen Deutschmann –  about the “Occurrence and habitat of the Eurasian Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium passerinum) in the federal state of Brandenburg” in the ornithological journal “Otis” 17 (2009): 69 – 84 a detailed overview of the distribution and the development of the breeding population in the federal state of Brandenburg is given. For the Eurasian Pygmy-Owl all available sightings for the state of Brandenburg were included in this analysis. The development of the breeding population and the some hints for the origin of the individuals are briefly discussed in the context of the spread of Eurasian Pygmy Owls in the low mountain ranges of Central Europe.

If you have any question about the Eurasian Pygmy-Owl, the countryside around Lieberose or the paper described above, please do not hesitate to contact me via Mobil celluar: +49 173 630 91 69 or E-Mail me via deutschmann30@aol.com

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