How Britain's smallest owl (7inches and 6oz) won a very big battle with a worm

By Amy Oliver

The early bird catches the worm: A female Little Owl struggles to pull an earthworm out of the ground

As every busy mother knows, keeping a brood of hungry children happy can be a struggle.

So with three chicks back at the nest, this normally nocturnal Little Owl made a daytime outing to rustle up dinner - but at just 7in tall, she faced something of a fight to get it home.

She spent several minutes unsuccessfully wrestling an earthworm from a field near Cardiff. Eventually, however, her hard work was rewarded and she whisked the unfortunate creature home to her chicks, who were nesting in a nearby dry stone wall.

Almost there! The owl tugs on the worm using all her strength

One lucky youngster then got to eat the earthworm from Mum's beak.

'The mother tugged and tugged on this worm, but it just wouldn't budge, so she used her wings to lift herself slightly off the ground to get extra leverage,' says wildlife photographer Andy rouse.

'It worked and the worm snapped out of the earth and into her face. It was a whopper.'

Although most owls are nocturnal, researcher Emily Joachim, of Reading University, says it is common for the birds to venture out during the day when they have hungry youngsters waiting back at the nest.

'Owls tend to hunt at dawn and dusk, but it's not unusual to see them sunbathing on a post in the afternoon,' she adds. 'They eat earthworms, but also like beetles and small mammals like mice and voles.'

Pop! The owl finally manages to pull the earthworm out of the field after struggling with it for several minutes

Come on, we're starving! The hungry chicks wait for their mother's return

Measuring between 7in and 8in tall and weighing around 6oz, Little Owls are the smallest variety of the bird in Britain.

Originally from Italy and Holland, they were introduced here in the 1880s. Sadly, because their habitats are being destroyed by development, their numbers are on the decline and just 8,700 pairs nested in Britain last year.

Another big problem is predators such as domestic cats - but that doesn't seem to be too much of a problem for this family.

'Dad is on the scene and the two parents seem to work in shifts,' says Mr Rouse. 'One guards the nest while the other is collecting food. There are a lot of predators and I watched Dad see off a couple of magpies the other day.'

Home to roost: Sitting in the family nest in a nearby wall, one of the three Little Owl chicks waits for its tea

Making a meal of it: One lucky chick gets to eat its dinner straight from Mum's beak. But with both their parents on dinner duty, its siblings should get their food soon

source: dailymail