The tawny owl is a medium-sized owl living in Europe, and it is the most common and widespread owl in Britain. In Britain, there are around fifty thousand breeding tawny owl pairs. Their range covers almost all of Europe and bumps some into Asia and also covers a small part of North Africa. An isolated population of these animals also covers most of southeastern China. There are several subspecies of the tawny owl, differentiated mainly by range and size.
In all of the following, S. a. is the genus name fallowed by the species name. It stands for Strix aluco. The last word in each name is the subspecies name.
- S. a. aluco
- S. a. sylvatica
- S. a. nivicola
- S. a. biddulphi
- S. a. willkonskii
- S. a. mauritanica
- S. a. sanctinicolai
- S. a. ma
- S. a. harmsi
- S. a. siberiae
- S. a. yamadae
As with almost all owls, the tawny owl is nocturnal. These birds are rather “fat” for their size, making them weigh more than most owls that are the length as they are. Although the tawny owl is mostly a woodland bird, it can adapt to city life in more urban areas. Other than size, males and females are the same in outward appearance. This link contains several videos about the tawny owl.
As I said earlier, the tawny owl is medium sized for owls. It can grow up to seventeen inches (43 cm) long from head to tail. The maximum wingspan is about thirty-nine inches (1 m). Females weigh about 1.1 pounds (520 grams) while males are smaller, weighing only .9 pounds (420 grams). On average, females are about twenty-five percent heavier and five percent longer than males. Another size difference is displayed among subspecies. Northern subspecies can be up to ten percent longer and forty percent heavier than other subspecies.
As with all owls, the tawny owl is a carnivore. They feed mainly on mammals such as voles, mice, shrews, and squirrels.They are not picky however and will also eat amphibians, birds, fish, and insects. Some tawny owls have been spotted waiting by bird feeders and then attacking unsuspecting birds or squirrels that stop by to eat. In urban areas birds such as ducks and small hawks make up the majority of their diet, and house sparrows have become a favorite food of urban tawny owls. As with most owls, these animals produce pellets which contain bones and other indigestible parts of their prey. These pellets are then regurgitated.
Threats and status
The IUCN redlist states that these animals are “least concern.” There are several known predators for this animal. Such predators include the following: foxes, martens, and birds of prey. The total range of the tawny owl covers around 3.8 million square miles (9.5 million sq. km.). This is about the size of the United States including Alaska and Hawaii. The estimated global population for these animals is in between 950,000 and 2,000,000 (two million).
Mating, eggs, and young
Starting in the fall, pairs form their territories together. Males will clap their wings together and hoot in an effort to attract females. Nesting begins in the spring, more specifically between March and April. From one to nine eggs (usually around two or three eggs) are laid. Nests are normally in hollow holes in tree trunks, but abandoned nests from other large birds are occasionally used. These owls are very territorial and in urban areas, people are sometimes attacked by these animals when walking near their nests.
The average incubation period for tawny owl eggs is thirty days. During this time, mostly the female takes care of the young. After hatching, the young take thirty-two to thirty-seven days to learn to fly. The male takes the most care of the young at this time. In the wild these animals can live up to twenty-one years, and they can live up to twenty-seven years in captivity.
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- Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide. David Burnie and Don E. Wilson, Smithsonian Institution, ISBN: 978-0-7566-6002-4
- Tawny owl – Andreas Trepte
- Mystery animal – Public domain