Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Rarest Bird in the Land

Gibraltar is a very small (2.6 square miles) territory of Great Britain. Located on the Iberian Peninsula, it borders Spain to its north. It is the famous location of the Rock of Gibraltar promontory and cliffs, often called, simply, The Rock.

Due to Gibraltar's location near the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea and as one of the southernmost points of the Iberian Peninsula, birds frequently migrate through the area and rest on its enormous limestone "mountain". Around 180 species of birds can be spotted in the area at some time of during the year, with upwards of 300 species including the rare and accidental birds that might stop by. It is a great spot for bird-watchers to visit.

Two recent visitors of the avian kind were a breeding pair of Eurasian Eagle Owls (Bubo bubo). The birds are not rare in and of themselves, as they are prevalent throughout most of Europe and Asian, but they are rare in Gibraltar. In the mid-2000s, a pair took up residence in the territory and have called Gibraltar home ever since. They are now year-round residents.

Eurasian Eagle Owls, also known as Horned Owls, are large birds of prey. They have a wingspan that can extend greater than 200 cm (approx 6-1/2 feet). They have distinguishing tufts of feathers that look like horns, and they have penetrating orange eyes. They are nocturnal animals and feast on small rodents and mammals.

Gibraltar has issued a new definitive set of 13 stamps honoring the 'Birds of The Rock'. The 5-pence stamp depicts the Eagle Owl, inevitably making it one of the few wildlife stamp issues for a country where fully half of the entire population of that species is depicted on a single stamp.

The entire 13-stamp issue can be found at http://www.gibraltar-stamps.com with an issue prices of £8.92 (about $18 USD).

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