The Scottish Owl Centre is located in Polkemmet Country Park in central Scotland. It houses the largest collection of owls in the world and it's the home of Argyll's parents. Yes, our baby Snowy Owl was bred here this summer, along with 4 siblings! (If you have wondered where businesses like The Scottish Countryman or falconers in general get their birds from, you'll find this post on captive bred birds useful.)
We were at the Scottish Owl Centre to collect Argyll earlier this week and I thought you might like to take a look around it with us. Set up and managed by Rod and Nicky Angus, it's a really well-run, well-organised Centre with an impressive variety of owls. Right from the start, when you first arrive at this board in the Reception area, you can see the care and devotion that goes into successfully managing a place of this size. It's one of the reasons I love it here.
We didn't stay for a show on this trip but have been to one in the past and it's well worth a trip. Informative, relaxed and with several different types of owls flying loose, you're sure to enjoy it and to learn a lot about owls you may never even have heard of before!
Even if you don't make the show times, the Centre has helpful information posted throughout on well-designed, easy-to-read signs to teach you about their collection of owls. Trystan, the Senior Keeper, explained that they have many schools come to visit them throughout the year and this kind of signage and the access to so many wonderful birds makes for a fabulous class project. As you can see from the photo of the Eagle Owl, below, the birds' aviaries are spacious and full of natural materials but it's easy to see them up close.
Although a large area, with many aviaries of all shapes and sizes, the Centre is completely enclosed so it's a safe place for young children and they can safely run up and down the different avenues to explore all the habitats. You'll find a picnic area and interactive displays as well as a display theatre and a petting area. There's even an indoor tropical zone, muggy and damp.
One of my favourites, Tony the Tawny Owl, is in a large aviary just behind the pine tree pictured above. He has flying jesses on (which you can see next to his feet) so you can tell he participates in the flying displays. Tawny owls are one of our most prolific owls in the UK, although you're more likely to hear them than see them, usually, so this close-up is a treat!
Argyll's parents, being Snowy Owls, are to be found in the area dedicated to 'owls of the north'
In an enormous enclosure - that must be at least 60x20x20', if not more - we found both the female (with black barring, on the left) and the male (almost pure white, with light speckling on his wings, on the right). This pair produced an incredible 5 chicks this year! A bumper crop and an indication of just how well the pair is doing. Their enclosure is zoned with a variety of natural materials and the birds certainly looked very at home in there.
From large to small.
The Scottish Owl Centre has Eagle Owls, which are the largest species of owl in the world. They also have the Pygmy Owl, which is the smallest. The Little Owl, which is the smallest owl found in the UK (England and Wales only), is also to be found at the Scottish Owl Centre.
About the size of blackbird and with a fast, nippy flight and impressive 'eyebrows' (not really), Little Owls are comical birds with plenty of character. (For the classicist, this is wise Athena's owl.) See below: isn't it beautiful?!
Those of you who have visited The Scottish Countryman | Inspired Falconry will recognise this kind of owl - it's a Eurasian Eagle Owl, like Ailsa and Fergus. All of the owls were in superb condition and I really like the staging of their aviaries - plenty of cover and natural materials to provide the owls with a good home and the viewers with plenty to look at.
We found two barn owls tucked up in their nesting box...
...and represented on the side of a huge climbing frame and slide!
Most of the enclosures feature signs like this (below) providing you with fascinating information about the inhabitants. The burrowing owls' area also featured a screen showing live footage from a camera inside their den. We could clearly see an impressive clutch of eggs - about 6 or 7, I think. At only a few inches tall, the fact that these owls would fight a prairie dog is amazing!
More information on other beautiful species of owl: American Barred and Spectacled.
Here's the Pygmy Owl, I mentioned above - on the left. He is tiny, perhaps slightly bigger than a robin, and he flits round his sub-tropical enclosure so fast it's tricky to get a shot of him! These black and white owls also caught my eye. Stunning markings.
I reckon it would take about an hour to take in everything that's at the Scottish Owl Centre but you could easily spend half a day there if you took a picnic and planned to go to a show. The hard-working staff are knowledgeable, passionate about what they do and happy to answer questions but you are left to explore at your leisure. A small gift shop includes lots of owl-themed pocket-money purchases including pictures, stationery and gifts, but not everyone gets to buy a real-live Snowy Owl chick, as we did 😉
Before I list my 5 reasons to love the Scottish Owl Centre, I'll leave you with this well-protected nest box - can you tell what's peeping out of it?! - and my recommendation: if you like owls, go!
Here are my 5 reasons to love the Scottish Owl Centre:
- The attractive setting and excellent layout of the Centre. It's tidy, well-looked after and nicely presented and you can tell that the staff here care about their birds.
- The huge range of owls - there will be some you've never heard of and others you'll be amazed to see in real life!
- The helpful staff, interactive displays and educational signage - the place is packed with fascinating facts.
- The amenities, especially if you have young children
- Argyll's parents live there 😍
Want to know more?
We're raising Argyll the Snowy Owl to be part of our team and you can follow his progress on our Facebook page.
We also have an Owls Group on our Facebook page, for people who really love owls and would like to see much more of the ones we have - a Barn, two Eagle Owls and - of course - a baby Snowy.
But if you'd rather just stick to the blog, you can sign up to be notified when there's a new post from The Scottish Countryman.