Captured at the Hawk Trust, Weyhill, Hampshire for Francesca by Nikon D3000/RAW and downloaded in Windows Picture Gallery
The Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) is a stocky, medium-sized owl which is common in woodlands across much of Eurasia. Its underparts are pale with dark streaks, and the upperparts are either brown or grey, with several of the eleven recognised subspecies having both variants. The nest is typically in a tree hole, and eggs and young are fiercely defended against potential predators. This owl is non-migratory and highly territorial, and many young birds starve if they cannot find a vacant territory once parental care ceases.
This nocturnal bird of prey hunts mainly rodents, usually by dropping from a perch to seize its victim, which is swallowed whole, although in more urban areas its diet includes a higher proportion of birds. Its night hunting is aided by vision and hearing adaptations and silent flight. The Tawny is capable of catching smaller owls, but may itself be killed by the Eagle Owl or Northern Goshawk, and foxes are an important cause of mortality in newly fledged young.
Although this owl is often claimed to have exceptional night vision, its retina is no more sensitive than a human’s, but its asymmetrically placed ears give the Tawny Owl excellent directional hearing. Its nighttime habits and eerie, easily imitated call have led to an association in myth with bad luck and death.