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TAWNY OWL. Strix aluco sylvatica 

IDENTIFICATION. The commonest of the UK owls the Tawny Owl is more often heard than seen, in both town and country. The scientific name reflects this, roughly translating as 'the strident caller of the woods'.

Larger than the pale Barn Owl the dark mottled brown plumage of the 'brown phase' Tawny Owl incorporates bars and streaks that camouflage it in its daytime roosts. Some Tawny Owls have paler feathering with greying facial discs and body feathers, these are known as 'grey phase' Tawny Owls. Wings are broad with rounded tips and the tail is short. The eyes are dark like the Barn Owls typical of a nocturnal bird.

May be confused with the less common and 'narrower' Long-eared Owl.

IN FLIGHT. In flight the Tawny Owls has a 'heavy' appearance when compared to similar sized British owls. The wing beats are rapid and unlike other owls the tawny prefers 'still hunting' to aerial attacks.

DISTRIBUTION. A large population that can be found across the country preferring woodlands, but also being found in city parks, churchyards etc.

WHEN SEEN. All year round.

FOOD. Small mammals, including field voles, shrews and occasional squirrels and small rabbits. Birds to the size of small corvids, including other birds of prey such as Kestrels.

BREEDING. March. 2 to 4 eggs laid in hole in tree or abandoned nest of larger birds. Young hatch after 28-30 days, flying 4-5 weeks later.

SIZE. 38cm (15in)

CALL. The classical Tu- wit tu-woo noise that is more a Who-whooo. This is actually two owls calling to each other. Also Ke-wick, whoooo or screech


If a Tawny Owl is to be kept they need a good size aviary, not a parrot cage, and company if not flown regularly. Being slightly larger than a Barn Owl they may be a better proposition, but be careful. Like most owls Tawny's have the nasty habit of attacking your eyes if they are angry or it is breeding season.

Remember Tawny Owls are VERY noisy, if you keep them either live in the middle of know-where or have really understanding neighbours.

NB. If you buy one of these raptors it should be fitted with a closed leg ring and have an Article 10 form with it (any queries check with DEFRA).

Falconry marks

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