Why don’t tawny owls call every night?

BBC Wildlife contributor Mike Toms answers your wild question. 

A
a
-
Tawny owl

The familiar ‘hooo hu huhuhuhooo’ of the male tawny owl, which is often answered by the female’s ‘keewik’, is typically heard from late summer to February.

Tawny calling behaviour varies throughout the year, but is most pronounced in autumn, when owls are re-establishing their territories and newly independent youngsters are settling into their patches. The more neighbours an owl has, the more frequently it calls, particularly if those neighbours are new. This demonstrates that the owls can recognise other birds on the basis of their call structure.

Tawny calling is also influenced by other factors such as temperature and weather conditions. Some years ago, I conducted research into the behaviour using data collected by a network of 3,500 citizen scientists across the UK. I discovered that the birds were more likely to call on warmer evenings and when a greater proportion of the moon was visible (moon phase has been linked to activity in other nocturnal birds). The tawnies were less vocal on cloudy nights, and there were also strong seasonal patterns.

 

Do you have a wildlife question you’d like answered? Email your question to wildquestions@immediate.co.uk or post it to Q&A, BBC Wildlife Magazine, Immediate Media Company, 9th Floor, Tower House, Fairfax Street, Bristol BS1 3BN

We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. Read more here