Tawny Owl

Tawny Owl is a nocturnal bird and people rarely get the chance to see it, although you can tell an owl is nearby by its “hoo-hoo” call. These medium sized birds are widespread through most parts of Europe and they’re one of the most capable predatory birds.

A Tawny Owl in flight
A Tawny Owl in flight

These owls inhabit all Europe, except Northern Scandinavia and Ireland. Smaller populations can also be seen in China, Afghanistan and Northern Africa. Tawny Owl is medium-sized, reaching up 40 cm in length the wingspan is about 1 meter. These owls are reddish-brown, mixed with white and they can be recognized by their rather dumpy build and a large, rounded head. Sexual dimorphism is characteristic for these owls – the females are much larger than the males.

In Europe, Tawny Owls live in deciduous trees and they build nests in tree cavities. These owls will rarely inhabit coniferous forests. They also like areas with high vantage points to spot prey, which is why their nightly calls can be heard in places like parks and cemeteries, that all have old, tall trees which can be used by the owls.

Tawny Owls hunt only at night. First, they scout for possible prey, using their extremely advanced vision, or if the night is too dark to see, they rely on their sense of hearing. The owl’s feathers are specifically designed to be able to fly without sound, and the owl’s attacks are usually swift and unpredictable. Tawny Owl also uses a cunning technique to find prey – when flying over bushes, the owl flaps it wings loudly, scaring small mammals and birds out of their hiding places, making them easy targets for the owl. Tawny Owl hunts everything it can handle – small mammals, birds, lizards and other animals.

In fall, the Tawny Owl looks for a mating partner to stay together with all life. Mating usually occurs in February and during this period the owls are quite loud, flapping their wings and clacking their beaks. The female lays 1-5 white eggs, which are then incubated for about a month. Five weeks after hatching, the young owls already start flying around, but the parents still feed them for two to three months and after that time, the younglings leave their parents forever. These young owls have to look for their own territory. In case all surrounding areas are already taken, the owls will starve and in these cases  it’s not uncommon for Tawny Owls to die even before reaching maturity.

A Tawny Owl pair
A Tawny Owl pair

The population of Tawny Owls is stable. Due to the steady reproduction rate and low interest in hunting these birds, it doesn’t seem to be decreasing. Tawny Owl’s lifespan is 5-8 years on average, although the oldest individual recorded reached the age of 18. These owls also have few natural predators, very few animals can compete with the Tawny Owl.

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