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Tawny Owl - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by Nigel Blake
Old Warden, Bedfordshire, May 2005
Strix aluco


37–39 cm (14½-15¼ in), WS 81-96 cm
A medium sized predominantly brown owl with a stocky body and a neckless appearance.


The colour varies throughout its vast range and there are 8 recognized subspecies.


Juvenile, Nominate subspecies
Photo © by Scridifer
Danube Delta, Romania, June 2017
Juvenile, Subspecius sylvatica
Photo © by G6 UXU
WWT Martin Mere, Lancashire, May 2016

One of the commonest and most widespread owls of the Region.

Breeds throughout Britain (but not Ireland), and from Iberia east across Europe to the Urals. Reaches southern Norway, central Sweden and the southern half of Finland in the north and in the south found as far as the north Mediterranean coast but absent from most islands except Sardinia and Sicily and may occur on some eastern Aegean islands such as Rhodes. Occurs in Turkey except the interior, the Caucasus, at a few sites in the Middle East and in northern Iraq. In North-West Africa found in the coastal strip from south Morocco to north Tunisia.

Mainly resident but juveniles disperse fairly short distances in August-October. In the far north of range may move more extensively in severe weather.

Vagrants have been recorded on the Balearic and Canary Islands.


Himalayan Owl was formerly considered a subspecies of this species.


About 7 subspecies occur in the Region differing slightly in size and in minor plumage characters but there is much individual variation[1].

  • S. a. aluco:
  • Northern and eastern Europe to Ukraine, Crimea, Balkans and Black Sea
  • S. a. siberiae: is the largest and palest with reduced markings
  • S. a. sylvatica: is smallest and usually the most rufous
  • S. a. willkonskii: Large and heavily marked
  • S. a. sanctinicolai: smaller
  • Zagros Mountains (north-eastern Iraq and western Iran)
  • S. a. harmsi:
  • S. a. biddulphi:


Mainly deciduous or mixed lowland woodland, but at over 2000m in Turkey. Also farmland with copses and scattered trees, town parks and large gardens


This is primarily a woodland owl, the most nocturnal of the owls occuring in the UK. Fairly numerous. Sedentary. Nocturnal.


Nests in hole. Breeds in forests, parkland, wooded farmland, preferring old broadleaf trees (ancient oaks etc. providing large holes); frequently found near man in gardens and towns. Aggressive when young leave nest, can attack intruder.


Food, mainly voles and insects, taken on ground after watch from perch.


The song is a long quavering hoot followed by a faint monosyllable, a short pause and then an extended soft tremolo which falls in pitch. The female sometimes gives a higher-pitched version of this song, but her usual call is a sharp 'ke-wick'


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, S. M. Billerman, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2022. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2022. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Gill, F, D Donsker, and P Rasmussen (Eds). 2022. IOC World Bird List (v 12.2) DRAFT. Doi 10.14344/IOC.ML.12.2. http://www.worldbirdnames.org/
  3. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved October 2016)

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