'Mabel' is actually famous Ipswich owl's chick - can you help us name it?
PUBLISHED: 09:43 21 November 2019 | UPDATED: 09:43 21 November 2019
Park rangers have revealed that the return of Ipswich's favourite tawny owl, Mabel, may not be as it first appears. They believe the owl spotted in Christchurch Park is actually one of her chicks returning to her nest.
And now they are giving Mabel fans the chance to name the new arrival.
'Mabel' was spotted earlier this month by eagle-eyed visitors to the park, who assumed the famous tawny owl - whose Latin name is Strix Aluco - had returned to her perch in the town park, much to the delight of rangers and bird watchers.
Lisa Stannard, operations manager for parks and cemeteries at Ipswich Borough Council, said: "We're quite sure it's one of Mabel's chicks because it's come back to the same spot in the park and the patterns on the feathers are very similar.
"We don't know if it's a male or female as it's very hard to sex owls from a distance and we don't want to disturb it. It doesn't really matter what it is, it's just nice it's one of Mabel's offspring.
"At the moment we are just calling the new owl M, we thought it would be nice to let the people of Ipswich decide on the name."
There are only 20,000 breeding pairs of tawny owl left in the UK. Their iconic 'twit twoo' call is actually produced by two owls at a time - female tawny's make the 'twit' call and males respond with the 'twoo'.
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It is thought by rangers the park is popular with owls because it has many veteran trees for nesting and plenty of woodland and grass areas to hunt in.
Tawny owls only lay two to four eggs per clutch, so for one of Mabel's chicks to return to her nest is a sign the park is an ideal environment for the bird.
"We absolutely encourage people to come and see M, but remember that they don't like loud bangs - in the same way we don't like people looking through our windows, they don't like to be disturbed," added Lisa.
It has not been confirmed if another statue will be placed next to the Mabel carving after the new owl is named.
The history of Mabel
Mabel became one of the park's best-loved attractions after first being spotted in 2007.
Traditionally timid creatures, owls usually stay out of sight of humans and remain nocturnal but not Mabel who would happily sit out during the daylight.
The last recorded sighting came in 2017 when she took an earlier than usual maternity leave.