Tawny owl facts

Since our report that there are tawny owls in the park, we have had several more from park-going night owls and early risers. Here are some tawny owl facts:

Established pairs remain with their breeding territories throughout the year and are strongly territorial. The resulting familiarity with their landscape is assumed to help them through the years when small mammal populations slump. Let’s hope the park has acquired its own breeding pair which plans to stay.

 It is a widespread breeding species in England, Wales and Scotland but not found anywhere in Ireland; this may be because they seem to be reluctant to cross large bodies of water.

Tawny owls are not great travellers: young birds rarely move more than a few kilometres from the nest.

They eat small mammals and rodents, small birds, frogs, fish and insects. In the park, our well established colonies of field voles will provide the bulk of their diet. Tawnies also hunt earthworms on damp nights in short grass, and the park’s grass, after our tenant farmer’s second cut, will stay short enough this winter for successful worm hunting.

Tawny owls nest in tree cavities. The birds do not bring nesting material to the site; they scrape a hollow in the dead leaves or rotting wood already in the cavity. The park has many old trees with suitable cavities but our owl boxes need urgent refurbishing.

The female lays 2 or 3 eggs early in the spring and incubates them for 30 days. Incubation starts when the first egg is laid and this leads to asynchronous hatching, a common strategy for owls, which increases the chance of survival of at least some chicks if feeding conditions prove challenging.

Typically, a tawny owl’s lifespan is between four and five years but the record, set in 2016, is 23 years and 5 months.

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