Tawny Owl

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Scientific Name: Strix aluco
Size: 38cm
Weight: 420-520g
Wingspan: 99cm
Lifespan: 4 years
Breeding: March
Number of Clutches: 1
Number of Eggs: 1-7
Incubation Days: 28-30
Fledg Days: 32-37
Habitat: Forest, woodland, towns
Distribution: Eurasia (not north)


Although not found in Ireland, the Tawny Owl is the UK's commonest woodland owl. It is a plump bird with a round head and large black eyes, a green-yellow hooked beak and feathered legs and feet. Over the entire body the feathers are in shades of red-brown through grey-brown with buff mottling allowing the Tawny Owl to blend, virtually invisibly, into the trees. It is much more likely to be located on its branch or in a hole in the tree by its call or from the signs of being mobbed by an alliance of Blackbirds, finches and tits. It tends to roost by day and hunt at night on its rounded broad wings with a fast flight comprising several robust wing beats in-between prolonged glides.


A hole in a tree or building, or a squirrel's drey will be used for its nest. Specially made nest boxes are sometimes used. The female alone incubates the eggs, which are white, smooth and glossy, and about 46 mm by 39 mm. The newly-hatched young are fed by both parents.


Small mammals (such as shrews, voles, mice and rabbits) are their main prey, which they usually capture by dropping on after having looked for it from a perch, but also amphibians and small birds (from Wren to Mallard). They feed mainly at dusk and dawn.

Legal Status

Being mostly nocturnal, the Tawny Owl is poorly studied but it is believed to be in slow decline and its range contracting, so the BTO has issued a High BTO Alert.


A Tawny Owl never calls "twit twoo". In fact the "twit" or more accurately "ke-wick" is a Tawny Owl's contact call and the "twoo" or again more accurately "hoo-hoo-oooo" is the male's territorial call. Consequently, if you hear "ke-wick hoo-hoo-oooo" it is most likely a male answering a female (or another male). Both can be heard in the recording. Tawny Owls are extremely vocal and have many calls that most of us will rarely hear.

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