British Garden Birds Site Map Album Info Quiz Shop Links About Visit us on facebook Visit us on twitter

Tawny Owl

Tawny Owl
Both sexes: Grey-brown to red-brown plumage dappled with buff.

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.

Scientific Name Strix aluco
Length 37-39 cm  (15")
Wing Span 94-105 cm  (38-40")
Weight 330-580 g  (1-1¼ lb)
Breeding Pairs 20000
Present All Year
Status Amber

Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.


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.


© Jean Roché,


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.


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


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.


Being mostly nocturnal, the Tawny Owl is poorly studied but it is believed to be in slow decline and its range contracting, so it appears on the Amber List of conservation concern.