No 8 Squadron Mascots
In 1975 a male European Eagle Owl was donated to No 8 Squadron at RAF Lossiemouth by the Highland Wildlife Park at Kingussie in Scotland. This was the start of the Eagle Owl’s association with the RAF’s AEW Squadron. The bird was later named Boo Boo, which is derived from the latin name for the species, Bubo Bubo.
The Great Eagle Owl species has 15 varieties distributed throughout most of continental Europe and as far east as India and China. The species was once indigenous to Great Britain and Ireland but is now a rare vagrant. It is the largest of the owls found in the Western Palearctic and, as with other raptors, the female is larger than the male, weighing an average of 3 Kg. They feed on small mammals, fish and other birds in the wild. However, both of our birds were born in captivity and their diet consists of chicks, rats and rabbits.
Like many other species of birds there has been a marked population reduction during the twentieth century due to the loss of natural habitat and, more importantly, human persecution. On 7 November 1978, No 8 Squadron was presented with a female European Eagle Owl in the hope that captive breeding might help restore the balance. She was later named Octavia by Blue Peter viewers. Octavia laid 3 eggs, 2 of which hatched. Unfortunately, due to an outbreak of Newcastle (Parrots) Disease in the UK, export and import permits could not be obtained for the European release and restocking programme. However, a new home was found for them at the Welsh Hawking Centre in Barry, near Cardiff. The young birds were named Uspiam and Passim after the squadron motto and are still alive today. In April 1984 Octavia produced another female owlet which was donated to the zoo at Aviemore. Shortly afterwards, a storm damaged the cage and Boo Boo escaped. Although there were reported sightings some months later, it is unlikely that a bird of prey born in captivity could survive without a rehabilitation programme.
In March 1991 a new Eagle Owl aged 3 years was donated by the Welsh Hawking Centre to No 8 Squadron (designate) at RAF Waddington. A local competition was then held to find a suitable name for him. The winning name was judged to be Augustus, sent in by Rebecca Wenham. In June 1991 Octavia was flown down to RAF Waddington and introduced to Augustus.
Sadly on 29 November 2007 Octavia passed away, follow the link below to read her obituary. As a result, it has recently been decided by Sqn members that Augustus will now join his daughter Gambia in the care of the Raptor Foundation as part of the flying display as this would provide a better quality of life for him. He will of course return to the Sqn from time to time, as he will always be our Sqn mascot.
Special thanks to the RSPCB, National Hawking Centre and the Ramsey Raptor Rescue Hospital for their invaluable help and advic