26 JULY 1935, Page 16

The Wtstering Owl

" Nature red in tooth and claw " is a fact we cannot blink ; but nature is apt to be a good deal redder under unwise inter- ference. The instance in my mind is the latest record that has come under my .notice of the habits of the little owl that was imported by Lord Lilford and others into this country. The pressure of its population is pushing it towards the west, as the Kelts were pushed. It becomes at least locally migrant and pairs have made their way on to • some of the. Western islands. -Round the ,nest of one pair of these alien birds were found the remnants of. 157 petrel. The owls which are a singularly clever and adaptable race—they run even. the goose close for intelligence—discover wherever they go what is the easiest source of food to exploit ; and on the island at any rate they found this, in these ground-nesting one of the in ost beautiful birds we have and, however numerous here and there, one of the rarest , to, many observers. Un doubtedly the favourite food, one may say the natural food, of the little . owl is the beetle ; but like the grey squirrel it will take the food that is nearest to hand. While preaching the dangers of naturalization, I must in common honesty confess that no bird is so ruthless an enemy of other birds as the black-backed gull which is native. On these western islands it destroys untold numbers of birds and seems to select for preference the helpless shear-water, which nest under- ground in thousands, near the breeding haunts of the, gulls.