For nature lovers who embark on a wildlife tour to Central Sweden, this very peaceful and picturesque part of the world provides a rich and memorable experience. Those with a particular interest in bird sightings are treated to a vast array of resident and migratory species, throughout the wetlands, boreal forests and meadows.
Some of the most sought after sightings on a wildlife tour focusing on birds are of any of the seven species of owls the country is known for.
Glaucidium passerinum is the smallest of all the owl species in Europe (growing up to around 15-19cm) and makes its home in the boreal forests, only moving further south in the event of extremely harsh winters. Their wing length is approximately 93-110cm and they weigh up to 83gm, with the females heavier and larger than the males.
The head is rounded, with no ear tufts. The feathers can range from greyish-brown to a deeper russet, with scattered white spots over the body, a white throat and a white ring around the back of the neck. They make nests in tree cavities and sometimes in abandoned woodpecker holes and are at their most active around dawn and dusk. Their call is a lot higher pitched than most other owl species, with the pitch rising before and after the mating season.
In contrast, Strix nebulosa, the Great Grey Owl, is the worldâ€™s largest owl by length, measuring up to 64cm for males and a massive 84cm for females. They weigh up to 1700gm, and can have a wingspan of up to 153cm. The Great Grey has a large head with a pronounced facial disc and piercing yellow eyes. Their feathers are a silvery-grey, with grey, brown and white streaks. Apart from their size, they are easy to identify by the unusual â€˜Xâ€™ marking between their eyes and a white â€˜bow tieâ€™ configuration of feathers around the front of the neck.
The best places to catch sightings of this bird are the open spaces on the edge of forests or meadows, when they fly low and slow over the terrain looking for prey around dusk and dawn. This species has been rated as one of the worldâ€™s top five â€˜must-seeâ€™ birds.
The medium sized Strix uralensis grows up to about 61cm, with a wing-span of 110-134cm. They are light-coloured, with pale grey or white spotted feathers and have a round head with a distinct apple-shaped facial disc, black eyes and a yellow beak. They are very effective nocturnal hunters and their specially adapted feathers have serrated edges to reduce the sound as they fly. They prey on frogs, insects, voles, smaller birds, mice and rats, storing any excess food in their nests within hollow tree trunks or cavities. During the day they roost in the canopy of the forests.
These birds rarely leave their established territory and males and females mate for life. They have a range of different vocalizations, some of which that can be heard several kilometres away.
A Wildlife Tour of Central Sweden
These are just three of the seven species of owls that might be seen on an organised wildlife tour of Central Sweden, along with a host of other fascinating and beautiful flora and fauna.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in birds. With a passionate interest in rare avian species, Marissa chooses the expert-led wildlife tour itineraries organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of flora and fauna in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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