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Tawny Owl Fact File

Appearance

The tawny owl is a medium sized compact owl with a rounded head and wings. They do not have ear tufts. On their back they are colored reddish-brown and on the underside they are colored white. Across the back they have mottled plumage that is finely streaked.

Two morphs exist with the brown coloration replaced with grey or rufous.

Their coloration helps them to camouflage in the tops of the trees where they rest during the day.

Around the face is a dark ring. They have dark eyes and a hooked beak for catching food. This beak is colored olive-yellow. Their claws are colored black with a white base.

Their body measures between 37 and 39cm (14.5-15.5in) long and weighs 450-550g (16-20oz). They have a wingspan of up to 1m (3.3ft) across. Females are typically larger than males and their size is variable across the large range.

Diet

The tawny owl is a carnivore. Their diet includes a range of small mammals, amphibians, fish, reptiles, birds and insects. When food is scarce they have been reported to feed upon carrion.

Reports exist of the tawny owl beating its wing to make birds fly out of bushes in which they are resting.

As an owl they will swallow their prey whole despite parts of it being indigestible. These include the fur and bones. The owl will regurgitate these as a pellet. These are used by scientists when studying the dietary habitats of the owls.

tawny owl

Scientific Name

Strix aluco

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Weight

450-550g (16-20oz)

Length

37-39cm (14.5-15.5in)

Wingspan

1m (3.3ft)

Lifespan

Wild 8-9 years

Diet

Carnivorous

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Range

Tawny owls are found across Europe, Asia and Africa. Here they can be found in the following countries-Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Pakistan, Palestine, State of, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom and Uzbekistan.

Habitat

They make their home in forests and shrublands. They have shown an ability to survive in urban areas and other habitats which are subject to human disturbance.

tawny owl

Reproduction

Breeding takes place from February to July. A pair of tawny owls will form for life and maintain a territory year round. Some males have been observed to be polygamous though. Parents are highly defensive of their territory and will attack intruders typically aiming for their head.

This defense extends to humans that enter their territory.

The pair will create a nest in a tree hollow or the abandoned nest of another bird, a mammals burrow or a squirrels drey. In to this nest the parents will deposit two to five white eggs with a one week gap between each being laid.

The female completes the entire incubation in most instances. This lasts between 28 and 29 days. The male will bring food to the female and the chicks. Females may join the male on hunts once the chicks are six or seven days old.

Fledging takes place between 28 and 37 days old. A tawny owl chick will depend on its parents for up to three months.

Prior to being flighted it is not uncommon for the owlets to leave the nest. They are skilled at climbing back to the nest during this time.

Owlets will leave the nest and form their own territory.

Sexual maturity is reached by one year old. Older birds tend to have greater success in raising their young.

Behavior

The tawny owl is primarily nocturnal emerging at night to feed.

During the breeding season males and females will perform a two part call with one another. This sound like ‘twit-twoo.’ The female performs the initial ‘twit’ section and the males then replies with the ‘twoo’ sound.

They have extremely good hearing which means they can locate their prey’s location on sound alone. Their ears are situated asymmetrically to assist this.

Their forward facing eyes are not able to move in their socket. As such they turn their head up to 270 degrees so they can look around them.

tawny owl

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the tawny owl include birds of prey such as goshawks and buzzards along with larger owls and mammals such as the red fox and European pine marten.

Humans affect their population through the use of pesticides on their prey, vehicle collisions and electrocution with powerlines.

Quick facts

They are the most common and widespread owl in Europe.

Photo Gallery

tawny owl
tawny owl

Photo Credits

Top

By K.-M. Hansche – Edited by: Arad – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1739161


Middle

By Andreas Trepte – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26228166


Bottom and Photo Gallery

By Martin Mecnarowski (http://www.photomecan.eu/) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12691237

References

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK


Martin, R., Bryan, K., Cooper, D. and Bond, S., n.d. The Animal Book. Lonely Planet


The RSPB. 2020. Tawny Owl Facts| Strix Aluco – The RSPB. [online] Available at: <https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/tawny-owl/> [Accessed 31 October 2020].

Lewis, D., 2020. Tawny Owl (Strix Aluco) – Information, Pictures, Sounds – The Owl Pages. [online] The Owl Pages. Available at: <https://www.owlpages.com/owls/species.php?s=1580> [Accessed 31 October 2020].

The Barn Owl Trust. 2020. Tawny Owl Facts. [online] Available at: <https://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/barn-owl-facts/uk-owl-species/tawny-owl-facts/> [Accessed 31 October 2020].

Diaz, K. 2011. "Strix aluco" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed October 31, 2020 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Strix_aluco/

Wildlifetrusts.org. 2020. Tawny Owl | The Wildlife Trusts. [online] Available at: <https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/birds-prey/tawny-owl> [Accessed 31 October 2020].

BirdLife International. 2016. Strix aluco. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22725469A86871093. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22725469A86871093.en. Downloaded on 31 October 2020.

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