Tawny Owl

Strix aluco

37-39cm

Appearance

A stout bird with dark eyes, a rounded head and wings, and dark feathers around the face. Adults and juveniles are similar, except when young birds initially leave the nest; at this point they're often covered in white down. Plumage is brownish red or greyish brown. Upperparts and pale underparts are both darkly streaked, and when flying, the wings are pale from beneath.

Habitat

Primarily lives in woodland (deciduous and coniferous) but may adapt to wherever the nesting is suitable, for example in man-made nests. Also may live in towns with suitable trees and parks.

Character

Flies quickly and quietly, and has a wide knowledge of its territory. Nocturnal, and roosts inconspicuously in tree hollows or amidst ivy. Small songbirds are attracted to the owl if it shows itself during daylight hours. When hunting, it may scout from a perch or hover in the air, and it is territorial.

Food

Predominately eats small mammals like voles, mice and shrews, some insects, frogs and worms, and other birds including Starlings, finches, thrushes and sparrows.

Breeding

Nests in a found hole which can be natural or produced by man. Nesting starts at the end of February or March, and the female lays 2 or 3 eggs which she incubates for 28-30 days. Initially she tends to the chicks while the male hunts. Hatchlings may depart the nest after 25-30 days and seek cover in nearby foliage; they can fly at about 32-37 days old, but don't gain independence for 3 months.

Population

The population is mostly resident and British birds rarely travel. There are approximately 50 000 breeding pairs in Britain, while Ireland has none.

Observation Tips

In the first two months of the year, these owls may be heard at dusk in appropriate woodland habitats. Songbirds have a habit of mobbing the Tawny Owl, so the clatter and shriek of the songbirds can be an indication of an owl, and this may happen in daylight hours.

Voice

Birds are more vocal at the end of winter and the beginning of spring due to the marking out of territory. Makes the famous hooting sound, though the female's version is more raspy. Also has a 'ke-wick' call.
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