Scottish Raptor Study Group

Monitoring and conserving Scotland's birds of prey




Tawny Owl

Tawny chick: Photo by Tony Lightley

The tawny owl is the most abundant owl in Scotland, commonly found in many parts of the mainland and the Inner Hebrides although apparently absent from the Outer Hebrides and Northern Isles. Despite the fact that it is nocturnal and therefore more often heard than seen, the hooting call of the tawny owl actually makes it one of the most familiar species of British birds. They also regularly produce a 'ke-wick' call between individuals.

Preferring an open deciduous woodland habitat they have adapted well to commercial conifer plantations, especially where nest boxes/barrels have been provided. They are a very adaptable species and can also be found in many town parks and gardens throughout the UK. Nest sites vary from holes in trees, old corvid nests, nest-boxes, and even on the ground. Prey species are varied and include mice, voles, small birds, frogs, worms and beetles, and they have even been known to take small fish from garden ponds. Some individual owls will specialise in particular prey, e.g. those breeding in conifer plantations may concentrate on frogs. Tawny owls are frequently the victim of illegal persecution by gamekeepers, particularly when they are seen to hunt in close proximity to pheasant-rearing pens.

The female does most of the incubation of the 2 to 5 eggs, which starts from the first egg laid and lasts approx. 28 to 31 days. Fledging takes about 4 to 5 weeks. The owlets remain fairly dependant on the adults for a further 2 to 3 months.

Keith Kirk

References:

Petty, S.J. (2007). Tawny owl. In Forrester, R., Andrews, I., McInerny, C. Murray, R., McGowan, B., Zonfrillo, B., Betts, M., Jardine, D. and Grundy, D. (Eds.). The Birds of Scotland. The Scottish Ornithologistsí Club, Aberlady. Pp. 917-920.


Scottish RaptorsHoney-BuzzardRed KiteWhite-Tailed EagleMarsh Harrier
Hen HarrierGoshawkSparrowhawkCommon BuzzardGolden Eagle
OspreyKestrelMerlinHobbyPeregrine FalconBarn Owl
Tawny OwlLong-eared OwlShort-eared OwlRaven