Tawny Owls spent the summer months doting on their youngsters, devoting every waking minute to child care. They have been perfect parents, hunting, feeding and watching over their growing brood as they gradually transformed from fluffy little owlets into fully fledged adults. But now, with the turning of the seasons comes a sudden change in tawny owl temperament from tolerant to territorial.
There is no gentle encouragement when the time comes for their adult children to leave home. The urge to defend their territory is so strong that their beloved offspring are now nothing more than competitors that must be evicted with immediate effect. The sensible ones leave without a backward glance but are often chased across the border, just to be sure. Those needing more persuasion will be truly hounded, shrieked at and battered, sometimes sustaining nasty injuries in the process. In prime Tawny Owl habitat, they will be chased out of one territory and straight into another, inadvertently incurring the wrath of the next-door neighbours. It’s a challenging time for the young adults as they run the gauntlet in search of a place of their own.
Occupied territories are well guarded and existing pairs will advertise their ownership with loud and persistent calls, warning would-be intruders to keep their distance. At a time of year when most birds are keeping quiet, Tawny Owls are turning up the volume. Their distinctive call is often described as ‘twit twoo’ but this is the result of two birds talking to each other. The ‘twit’ is really more of a ‘kee-wick’ and this is the main contact call, most often made by females at this time of year. The ‘twoo’ is a softer, drawn out hoot, more like a ‘hooo…hu…huhuhuhoo’ and is the main territorial call of the male. A resident pair will often sing a duet, with the female punctuating the pauses in her partner’s hooting song. Though they are traditionally woodland birds, Tawny Owls are adaptable and will be putting on nocturnal concerts in parks, gardens and urban greenspaces across the county in the run-up to their winter breeding season, so tune in if you can.