Tawny owl

Tawny owl

Tawny owl ©Margaret Holland

Tawny owl

Scientific name: Strix aluco
The tawny owl is the familiar 'brown owl' of the UK's woodlands, parks and gardens. Listen out for the famous 'twit-twoo' call, actually made up of a 'ke-wick' sound from a female and an answering 'hoo-hoo-ooo' from a male.

Species information


Length: 37-39cm
Wingspan: 99cm
Weight: 420-520g
Average lifespan: 4 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).

When to see

January to December


The tawny owl is our largest common owl and is known for making the familiar 'twit twoo' owl call during the night and early hours. Yet this call this is actually made by both a male and female owl calling to each other - the female makes a 'ke-wick' sound and the male answers with something more like 'hoo-hoo-oo'. Tawny owls feed on small animals like voles and mice, looking out for them from a favourite perch. Nesting usually takes place in spring in hollow trees or an old crow's nest.

How to identify

The tawny owl is mottled reddish-brown, with a paler underside. It has a big, round head, rounded wings, large, dark eyes, and a dark ring around its face.


Widespread, but absent from Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.

Did you know?

Like other owls, tawny owl can famously turn their head through 270 degrees and are able to look behind them. Although owls have binocular vision, their forward-facing eyes cannot move in their sockets, so they must turn their heads instead.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working closely with farmers, landowners and developers to promote wildlife-friendly practices. Across town and country, The Wildlife Trusts manage many woodland nature reserves for the benefit of the wildlife they support. You can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member; you'll find out about exciting wildlife news, events on your doorstep and volunteering opportunities, and will be helping local wildlife along the way.