Sorry for posting this so late in the afternoon. Much to my surprise it’s been quite busy in the Visitor Centre despite the dreary weather and low cloud we have here at the moment.
Tawny Owls are one of Britain’s most common woodland owls and are widespread throughout Europe. They can be found throughout deciduous and mixed woodlands and even conifer plantations, preferring habitats with access to open water. They are mostly sedentary but will disperse locally around the end of August to find a territory.
They are medium sized Owls between 37-43 cm with a wingspan ranging from 81-96 cm
Females are typically 5% larger than the male and are up to 25% heavier.
Prey- Tawny Owls tend to have varied diet, which consist of shrews, voles, mice and rabbits, They have been known to take small bird such as Wren, Robin and very occasionally Mallard. In urban areas their diet is mostly made up of small birds. Tawny Owls are even capable of catching smaller owls but themselves are prey to larger owls such as the Eagle Owl and occasionally the Goshawk. In urban areas foxes are a common cause of mortality in juvenile Tawny Owls.
Although many believe that Tawny Owls have superb night vision, their eyesight is no better than a humans. Instead they use asymmetrically placed ears which equip them with excellent directional hearing. They will hunt from perches, listening for sounds of rodents in the undergrowth and then drop silently. Virtually all hunting take places at night, but during the breeding season parents may venture out during the daytime to feed chicks.
Tawny Owls usually breed at one year and mate for life. Pairs will start to look for potential nesting sites from Febuary to March. They prefer holes in trees, abandoned magpie nests and squirrel dreys. They will readily take up residence in nest boxes. The female will incubate a clutch of between two or three eggs for 30 days prior to hatching. The chicks will fledge 35-39 days later, but will often stray out of the net to ‘hide’ on nearby branches. From August to November the juveniles will disperse to find their own territory.
Tawny Owls are extremely vocal and have a range of social calls, very few of which have been heard by us. The main times to hear them are during the breeding season which runs from March to May and from August to September when adults will reaffirm their territories by calling. They mainly hunt and call from 9-10 pm until dusk.
The most distinctive Tawny owl calls are the characteristic ke wick sound from the female and the male reply of a soft hoooooo sound. Definitely one of my favourite night time sounds !