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Tawny Owl

Tawny Owl Tawny Owl Both Sexes
Grey-brown to red-brown plumage dappled with buff.
Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.
Strix aluco
Length: 37-39 cm  (15")
Wing Span: 94-105 cm  (38-40")
Weight: 330-580 g  (1-1¼ lb)
Breeding Pairs: 20 000
Present: All Year
Status: Green

Description

The Tawny Owl is Britain's most common woodland owl, though absent from Ireland.

This plump owl has variable plumage, ranging from red-brown to grey-brown plumage dappled with buff, which is perfect camouflage for roosting in trees during the daytime and at night it becomes just a silhouette, and so you are more likely to hear it. The hooked bill is a greenish-yellow and the eyes are black. The legs and feet are feathered.

Other birds, often of different species such as Blackbirds, finches and tits, gang up and mob roosting Tawny Owls, the commotion being useful in locating the owl, which is usually on a branch close to the tree trunk or in a hole in the tree.

The Tawny Owl flies quickly with strong wing beats followed by long glides on its broad rounded wings.

Voice

Choose from Quicktime and mp3. Call
  Quicktime mp3

A Tawny Owl never calls "twit twoo". In fact the "twit" or more accurately "ke-wick" is a Tawny Owl's contact call and the "twoo" or again more accurately "hoo-hoo-oooo" is the male's territorial call. Consequently, if you hear "ke-wick hoo-hoo-oooo" it is most likely a male answering a female (or another male). Both can be heard in the recording.

Tawny Owls are extremely vocal and have many calls that most of us will rarely hear; many of these calls are described on God's Own Clay.

Feeding

Small mammals (such as shrews, voles, mice and rabbits) are their main prey, which they usually capture by drop on after having looked for it from a perch, but also amphibians and small birds (from Wren to Mallard). They feed mainly at dusk and dawn.

Nesting

A hole in a tree or building, or a squirrel's drey will be used for its nest. Specially made nest boxes are sometimes used.

The female alone incubates the eggs, which are white, smooth and glossy, and about 46 mm by 39 mm. The newly-hatched young are fed by both parents.

Breeding Data
Breeding Starts Number of Clutches Number of Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
March 1 1-7 28-30 32-37

Movements

Tawny Owls are sedentary except when the juveniles disperse. They disperse in August–November and by early winter will be either dead or holding a territory.

Conservation

Being mostly nocturnal, the Tawny Owl is poorly studied but it is believed to be in slow decline and its range contracting, so the BTO has issued a High BTO Alert.

My Garden

Graph of garden visits.

Regularly, during summer 1998, at about 10.00 pm the Tawny Owl perched on a branch of the dead tree in the next door neighbour's garden watching the ground below for any movement. On a couple of occasions it perched on either a clothes post or a fence in our garden. Its prey was common frogs leaving our pond for their night time feeding. The tree has since had to be felled and the Tawny Owl has not been seen since, but is often heard calling in early winter time.

Further Reading

"Owls", Whittet Books (details)


Last revision: 21 Feb 2015
Copyright © David Gains 1999-2017.
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