Tawny Owl

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


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 Ornithologists� Club, Aberlady. Pp. 917-920.

Scottish Raptors• Honey-Buzzard• Red Kite• White-Tailed Eagle• Marsh Harrier
Hen Harrier• Goshawk• Sparrowhawk• Common Buzzard• Golden Eagle
Osprey• Kestrel• Merlin• Hobby• Peregrine Falcon• Barn Owl
Tawny Owl• Long-eared Owl• Short-eared Owl• Raven