The Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) is a medium-sized owl, 3743 cm in length with an 8196 cm wingspan, which is common in woodlands across much of Eurasia.
Turbary Woods
Tawny Owl - Strix aluco
Tawny Owl - Strix aluco

Description

The Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) is a medium-sized owl, 37–43 cm in length with an 81–96 cm wingspan, which is common in woodlands across much of Eurasia. Its underparts are pale with dark streaks, and the upperparts are either brown or grey. The nest is typically in a tree hole, but will also use old Magpie nests, squirrel dreys or holes in buildings, and readily takes to nest boxes. The eggs and young are fiercely defended against potential predators.

Tawny Owl Close UpHabitat and Behaviour

This species is found in deciduous and mixed forests, and sometimes mature conifer plantations, preferring locations with access to water. Cemeteries, gardens and parks have allowed it to spread into urban areas, including central London.

The Tawny Owl hunts almost entirely at night, watching from a perch before dropping or gliding silently down to its victim, but very occasionally it will hunt in daylight when it has young to feed. This species takes a wide range of prey, mainly woodland rodents, but also other mammals up to the size of a young rabbit, and birds, earthworms and beetles.

The commonly heard call is a shrill, kew-wick answered by the males song hoo ... ho, ho, hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo. William Shakespeare immortalised this owl's song in Love's Labour's Lost (Act 5, Scene 2) as "Then nightly sings the staring owl, Tu-whit; Tu-who, a merry note, While greasy Joan doth keel the pot", this call is actually a duet, with the female making the kew-wick sound, and the male responding hooo.

In Literature

The Tawny Owl, like its relatives, has often been seen as an omen of bad luck, and William Shakespeare used it as such in Julius Caesar (Act 1 Scene 3) "And yesterday the bird of night did sit/ Even at noon-day upon the market-place/ Hooting and shrieking." Wordsworth described the technique for calling an owl in his poem About a boy.  Owls were associated with Blodeuwedd, who betrayed Lleu Llaw Gyffes in the tale of Math son of Mathonwy from the ancient Welsh Mabinogion.