The tawny owl, nocturnal raptor


Raptor widespread in Europe, the tawny owl frequents our towns and countryside as soon as it finds a wooded environment in which to nest. Close-up on a bird whosehearing very thin makes it an excellent hunter nocturnal.

Identity card of the tawny owl

The tawny owl (Strix aluco) is a species of bird belonging to the order Strigiformes and to the family owls. Comprising 26 genera and 216 species, this family includes birds of prey with nocturnal activity present on all continents except the Antarctic. As with most raptors, the sexual dimorphism is marked by females larger than males. The Tawny Owl has an average size of 38 to 42 cm, a wingspan of 85 to 105 cm and a weight of 350 to 550 g.

Description of the tawny owl

Like many other nocturnal raptors, the species presents two morphs of plumage on the upper part of the body: a Grey and one ginger. The rest of the body has a white to cream underside, finely streaked with brown, giving it a speckled appearance. The large round head wears a frill of feathers called facial mask cut in its center by a dark line that joins the beak. The animal sports light concentric circles around its large black eyes, a dark stripe on the forehead and gray eyebrows. Often, but not always, feathers erectile (egrets), stand on their heads. In all cases, the plumage is always cryptic, so as to blend the bird into the vegetation.

Physical skills of the tawny owl

In the tawny owl, thehearing is a very developed sense making it easier for him to hunt. Indeed, the face mask directed towards the front directs the sounds towards the ears whose placement asymmetrical allows precise localization of its prey. Raptors can hear low and medium frequencies more acutely than humans. If the bird’s eyes cannot roll in their sockets, its lack of lateral vision is compensated by the mobility of his neck: able to turn 270 °, his head offers him a view of almost all angles. The hunting of the tawny owl is also favored by its good night vision giving it a sharp perception of relief and distances. Its silent flight is obtained thanks to the downy surface of the large wing feathers which suppresses the noise the beating of wings.

Tawny owl habitat

The tawny owl colonizes all of Europe (from Great Britain to the Iberian Peninsula) but is absent from Ireland and rare in the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands. We find it at Maghreb, in Asia Minor and the Near East. Its range extends from Russian Siberia to Korea, as far as Central Asia – from Iran to the Himalayas – where some specimens live beyond 4000 meters altitude. The species frequents forests and woods open or semi-open, crops, parks, groves, gardens. The presence of a wooded area is a necessity vital for its cave nesting. In the countryside or in the city, she often lives near homes and is particularly fond of barns and attics. The species is strictly sedentary.

Diet of the tawny owl

The Tawny Owl is a prone predator opportunistic whose regime varies according to the resources of the environment. Perched on a stake or a tree branch, the raptor waits until the arrival of a prey on which it melts. Then it opens its wings at the moment of impact to prevent its victim from fleeing and it hits her. The animal mainly eats rodents (mice, voles, field mice) and does not refuse other small mammals like a young rabbit or a squirrel. The prey is swallowed entirely and the undigested elements (hair, bones, teeth) are rejected in balls. The Tawny Owl also catches birds up to the size of pigeons, frogs, lizards, mollusks, crustaceans, worms and insects. It also happens to fish for Pisces and consume corpses.

Tawny owl behavior

Hunting at night, the tawny owl rests during the day, hidden in the foliage, away from men and birds likely to disturb its sleep: magpies, jays, crows … This raptor with behavior territorial is known for its aggressiveness against anyone approaching its nest. The Tawny Owl nests in cavities natural or artificial: rock, tree trunk, nest box, fireplace, in an unoccupied building, under a shed. She also uses nests abandoned by corvids or raptors and placed on cliffs or ledges. Monogamous, couples remain faithful all their lives.

Reproduction of the tawny owl

The breeding season takes place between february and july depending on the region. Supplied by the male, the female lays at intervals of 2 to 4 days, between 3 to 5 white eggs which she incubates for 28 to 30 days. The chicks, fluffy and round at birth, are then left alone while the adults hunt. The chicks leave the nest at 1 month approximately and their first flight takes place after 5 to 6 weeks. The juveniles – who always ask their parents for their food – will not really become independent only 2 and a half months after leaving the nest.

Protection of the tawny owl

The red fox, eagle owl and other birds of prey are among the main predators of the tawny owl. The most common nocturnal raptor in Europe, it is not considered an endangered species. Protected in France, it is not allowed to hunt it, kill it, capture it and destroy its nests or eggs. The lifespan of the tawny owl is 15 to 18 years old wild.

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