Species Of The Week Number22: Tawny Owl

Who doesn't love an owl? We share Meanwood Valley with these stunning nocturnal hunters and if you are out at night near the woods you have a decent chance of seeing, or more likely hearing, one.

In terms of hearing them, I'm sorry to disappoint but owls don't go 'Twit-twoo'. A male Tawny Owl has quite a deep 'whoo' and the female's call is a sharp 'kee-wick'. None of the other resident owls in the UK (Barn, Little, Short-eared and Long-eared) go 'Twit-twoo' either. Also, they can't turn their heads 360° - its another myth. They can manage 270° though, which is still quite impressive.

One local owl was quite a Meanwood celebrity as it regularly used a daytime roost which was easily visible (once you knew where to look) from one of the well-used paths in the Ridge. I've not seen it there recently though.

Tawny Owls lay 1-3 eggs a few days apart. This means that the oldest one will get most food and, in years when food is in short supply, at least one will survive.

Although their eyesight is not much better than ours, Tawny Owls have incredible hearing and their ears are placed asymetrically on their head which allows them to pinpoint their prey exactly, and drop down on it from a perch above. Rain therefore prevents them from hunting as the noise of the raindrops messes with the soundscape.

A Tawny Owl is never happier than when swallowing a small mammal, although they have quite a sophisticated palate and also sometimes dine out on bats, moths and lizards. By inspecting owl pellets we also know that their diet can extend to fish and even a mallard. I'm not sure which small mammals our Tawny's eat but am hoping to find out - as the good people from the Yorkshire Mammal Group are going to help us out with surveying and trapping them later in the year. If you want to volunteer to help out with the mammal survey let me know.

Posted on 22 February, 2023 23:16 by clunym clunym


No comments yet.

Add a Comment

Sign In or Sign Up to add comments