The Tawny Owl is a robust bird, 37-46 cm (15-18 in) long, with an 81-105 cm (32-41 in) wingspan. Weight can range from 385 to 800 g. Its large rounded head lacks ear tufts, and the facial disc surrounding the dark brown eyes is usually rather plain. The nominate race has two morphs which differ in their plumage colour, one form having rufous brown upperparts and the other greyish brown, although intermediates also occur. The underparts of both morphs are whitish and streaked with brown. This species is sexually dimorphic; the female is much larger than the male.

Habitat and Distribution

Although both colour morphs occur in much of the European range, brown birds predominate in the more humid climate of western Europe, with the grey phase becoming more common further east. They are found in deciduous and mixed forests, and mature conifer plantations, with access to water. It has spread into urban areas, including central London. It is mainly a lowland bird in the colder parts of its range, but breeds to 550 m in Scotland, 1,600 m in the Alps, 2,350 m in Turkey, and up to 2,800 m in Burma.


The Tawny Owl hunts almost entirely at night, watching from a perch before dropping or gliding silently down to its victim. Prey includes woodland rodents, rabbits, birds, earthworms and beetles.


Tawny Owls pair off from the age of one year. They nest in a hole in a tree, but will also use old European Magpie nests, squirrel dreys or holes in buildings, and readily takes to nest boxes. The typical clutch of two or three glossy white eggs. The eggs are incubated by the female alone for 30 days.