Tawny Owl

Tawny Owl

This is the owl frequently heard, but more infrequently seen, a turnaround of the status of the barn owl; consider it is both a much more plentiful along with a more vocal species than the latter, the likelihood of hearing a tawny owl are infinitely more than those of visiting a barn owl.

The tawny, wood, or brown owl is strictly nocturnal, rarely moving out by daylight even if it has young to feed, and the best likelihood of seeing it by day probably occur when one is disturbed from the sleeping-roost by a walker off the beaten track in woodland; both dense plantations of conifers and the ivy clumps on small trees are favourite roosting-sites; around gardens, parks and cemeteries the darkness afforded by yews is sought during hours of daylight.

The chance discovery of these a lodger by some foraging tit or wren can lead to the sounding of the general alarm which is taken up by almost every other tit, wren, dunnock, chaffinch and blackbird in the neighbourhood, and the excited ‘mobbing’ of the owl which follows will frequently force it to consider flight in broad daylight, pursued by its tormentors.

But although the familiar call might be heard through the night-traffic in the centres of huge towns and cities, the tawny owl is basically a woodland bird, feeding on woodmice, shrews and beetles on the ground, and taking the occasional roosting bird from the bush. In suitable circumstances, birds easily caught may form a considerable part of the diet in the fall and winter, the most frequent example
being the regular nightly feeding on starlings if your roost of these birds transpires with form conveniently inside a tawny owl’s feeding-territory.

For many weeks at one such site, where the owl spent the day inside a Scots pine and the starlings came each evening to the hawthorn-scrub just beneath, the evidence of the regurgitated pellets-feathers, bones and frequently complete skulls or feet-left without doubt as to the suitability of the arrangement from the owl’s perspective.

Here, on one moonlight night, the hunter was observed in. the act of floating a dense thorn seething with starlings clambering inwards like ants; sometimes the owl’s wing actually brushed against the twigs audibly, but it’s difficult to say whether it was just an accidental contact while hovering for any pounce, or a deliberate make an effort to beat a victim out into reach. Unfortunately, at this time the observer was himself observed, and the owl flew off.

Young tawny owls, still fluffy, may frequently be located out of the nest, often on the ground, well before they are able to fly; two such, nothing more than half grown, were once found huddled in the cavity between the buttress-roots of the beech, but the remains of the very young rabbit beneath them suggested that they are not looking for care, and subsequent visits proved that they are thriving by no means abandoned.

Kind-hearted (or acquisitive) ‘rescues’ of these owlets, even if they’re reared successfully, might have only two outcomes-a life in captivity, or perhaps a release at maturity right into a wild life that they have not served the very necessary long apprenticeship using their parents; nor is desirable.

Haunts :

Woodland, deciduous or coniferous, or parks and gardens with mature trees.

Appearance :

Insufficient ear-tufts, stouter body and dark eyes distinguish this from only other brown owl apt to be seen perching in woodland. Colour rich warm brown, mottled darker, on back, with buffer shoulder-patch; breast paler, with dark streaks. (But colour variable, a lot of people almost as red as cock pheasant, some as pale as hen pheasant.) Flying, long, rounded wings and incredibly large head noticeable; if seen head-on, round (instead of heart-shaped) facial disc separates this from barn owl when colour not plainly seen.

Voice :

Common call is really a loud, repeated ‘kewik’. Song of male is long-drawn out, undulating hoot so easily imitated by blowing into hollow cupped hands. Traditional ‘too-wit-too-woo’ is either duet between female calling ‘kewick’ and male answering ‘too-woo’, or frequently mixture of preliminary call then hooting from one bird.

Food :

Small mammals-mice, voles, shrews, moles; larger insects, chiefly beetles; and small birds or young of larger species.

Nesting :

In hollow of tree or (mainly in evergreens) on foundation old nest of crow or pigeon. In dense conifer plantations not infrequently on ground beneath loads of branches left from trimming stems. No nesting material added and, unlike barn owl, doesn’t cast up pellets in nest-hole. Eggs pure white of the roundish oval shape (no big or little end), usually 2, then further 2 at intervals of some days.