Britain's owls need twenty minutes

09 Jan 2019 | No. 2019-01

Twenty minutes once during your week is all it will take to find out just how Britain’s Tawny Owls are faring.

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is asking members of the public to listen out for Tawny Owls to help build a picture of what is happening to our most widespread owl.

Evidence suggests that our Tawny Owl population is falling and it might be that we are losing them from our towns and cities. Taking part in the BTO’s Tawny Owl Calling Survey will help make this clearer.

Tawny Owls are very difficult to monitor, as they live their lives during the hours of darkness, so we often hear them rather than see them. We want people to listen for the distinctive ‘hoot’ calls of the males and sharp ‘kee-wick’ of the females. Anyone can take part and the BTO website has a series of Tawny Owl recordings for people to familiarize themselves with the various calls.

Claire Boothby, Tawny Owl Calling Survey Organiser at the BTO, said, “Getting involved couldn’t be simpler - Just wrap up warm and give yourself 20 minutes to listen for the haunting calls of Tawny Owls between now and the end of March. You can listen from your garden, local wood or park, or even from the comfort of the sofa with your window open, and tell us whether or not you hear an owl. Don’t worry if you don’t hear one in your 20 minutes; that record is just as valuable and you’ll become one of our Zero Heroes!”

The BTO would like at least 10,000 people across the UK to take part, nearly 6000 volunteers have already told what us what they have heard, you can help by listening out too.

Please visit for more information.

Contact Details

Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Media Manager)
Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5:30pm Mon-Thurs), (9am to 5pm Friday)
Mobile: 07585 440910
Press mobile 2: 07850 500791
Email: press [at] ()

Claire Boothby
(Tawny Owl Calling Survey Organiser)
Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5:30pm Tues -Thurs), (9am to 5pm Friday)
Mobile: 07850 500792
Email: claire.boothby [at]

Images are available for use alongside this News Release here

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews. 
Please contact us to book an interview. Office:01842 750050

Notes to editors

1. About Tawny Owls
 Tawny Owls are our most frequently heard/seen owl in and around gardens; despite our familiarity with these birds we know little about the impacts of urbanisation on their behaviour. Tawny Owls are reliant on vocalisations, using them to show ownership of a breeding territory, as well as attracting a mate and reinforcing a pair bond.

2. About the survey: We need to understand the impact of artificial light pollution and other aspects of urbanisation on the likelihood of hearing Tawny Owls. At the same time we will also look at seasonal changes in Tawny Owl calling behaviour more generally and see if urbanisation plays a role in this too. This work builds on information collected by a huge 3,465 volunteers in 2005/06, who listened for Tawny Owls in their gardens. We found that the time of day, the moon cycle and weather influenced Tawny Owl calling behaviour.

3.The BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation organisations.

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