Urban Wildlife - Tawny Owl

Tawny owl (Strix aluco) © John Black

Fascinating Fact about Tawny Owl

The tawny owl is one of the most common owls in Britain, with a population of about 20,000 breeding pairs. It is able to live in a wide variety of habitats. Despite this,
because it is nocturnal, it is rarely seen. Most often, we only know of its presence by the familiar deep ‘tu-woo’ or ‘kee-wick’ most commonly heard about two hours after sunset in late autumn or winter.

All about Tawny Owl

What to look for

The tawny owl is 37 - 39cm long, with a rounded head, body and wings. It has large brown eyes, with its face surrounded by a ring of dark feathers. Its upper parts are usually reddish
brown, with a line of dark and light patches on its wings and crown of the head. The under parts are yellowish-beige and often streaked.

When and where to see

The tawny owl lives in woodlands, wooded farmland and parkland. It can also be found in towns where there are large trees, such as in parks and churchyards. Due to it being nocturnal and it having a well camoufl aged brown body, it is very difficult to spot. Sometimes it can be seen in daylight, but only when it is disturbed. If this does happen, its presence
is often revealed by the mob of small birds which are harassing it.

Did you know?

  • Tawny owls have permanent territories which they patrol very conscientiously and appear to know very well. Within their territory their roosting place is regularly changed.
  • In urban areas, tawny owls prey mainly on birds such as sparrows, thrushes, blackbirds and starlings. Rodents make up only about 7% of the urban owl’s total diet. In the countryside the owls eat few birds. The hunting methods of city and country owls also vary: in city areas, small birds are snatched from their roosts. Places like roofs and
    telegraph poles are used as vantage points to hunt from. Countryside owls usually perch close to the ground and wait for their prey to appear, then pounce.
  • The tawny owl’s feathers have a velvety pile and fine fringe that help to reduce the noise of the wings when fl ying, so the owl can approach its prey as quietly as possible. When hunting, tawny owls rely heavily upon their sight and hearing and use their talons only during the attack.
  • In the breeding season tawny owls nest in tree cavities, old crows’ nests, squirrel dreys and nest boxes; only when these are not available it will nest on the ground. The tawny owl lays 2-3 large, white, round eggs in late February or March and incubates them for 28-30 days. The young tend to leave the nest about 4 weeks after hatching, but are still dependent on their parents for 2-3 months afterwards, and sometimes on into autumn. Often, only 1 or 2 owlets per pair reach adulthood.


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