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What Is a Tawny Owl?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 17 August 2014
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The tawny owl is a relatively small member of the owl family. These birds live all around Europe, and they can also be found in certain areas of Asia. Tawny owls are 15-inches (40 cm) long, and their wingspan is about 3 feet (1 meter). The birds have wide, rounded bodies, and most have gray feathers with brown speckles. Females are significantly larger than the males, and both genders have a very distinctive call.

These birds prefer to live in areas with a lot of trees. They are strictly nocturnal, resting during the day and awakening at night to hunt. The tawny owl likes to spend its daylight time high up in trees, and it especially likes to hide in hollowed out, rotten tree-trunks when they can be found.

The tawny owl can see very well in the dark, and this helps it spot prey. These birds primarily eat mice and voles, but it isn't especially unusual for them to eat insects or small lizards. Their wings allow for silent flight, and they are often able to swoop down on their prey without ever being heard. When they choose to, they can make loud noises with their wings on purpose as a way to flush small animals out of hiding. Like most other owls, they are known to be highly successful and effective hunters.

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Once a tawny owl chooses a mating partner, the two birds generally stick together for life. Mating normally happens in late winter or early spring, and once eggs are laid, the owls work together as a team, with the male bringing food and the female staying behind to incubate and protect the eggs. A typical clutch is about six eggs, and the incubation period is approximately 30 days. The chicks learn to fly after about five weeks, but they don't immediately become independent. Their parents continue to bring them food and protect them from threats for approximately three months.

When tawny owls finally go out into the world, life can sometimes be quite difficult for them. The birds are generally territorial, and if a new owl is unable to find a suitable territory of his own, it is possible for him to suffer a grim fate. Tawny owls have more natural enemies than many other owl species. They have to worry about attacks from predatory mammals like house cats, as well as other birds of prey. Despite these difficulties, the birds have relatively strong population statistics and aren't currently considered endangered.

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