British public asked to listen out for owls

25 Sep 2018 | No. 2018-27

EMBARGOED 00:01 Friday 28 SEPTEMBER 2018

The British Trust for Ornithology is asking the great British public to participate in a national study of Tawny Owls and their calling behaviour, by listening out for them this autumn and winter. Tawny Owl populations are thought to be in decline and the species has recently been added to the Amber List of Birds of Conservation Concern.

A new study is urgently needed because Tawny Owl populations are thought to be in decline and BTO researchers wish to understand more about the impacts of urbanisation and light pollution on their populations. Anyone can participate, and members of the public are asked to listen out for calling Tawny Owls from their garden, local park or piece of woodland.

As Claire Boothby, survey Organiser at BTO, comments, "You can listen from pretty much anywhere you like for 20 minutes one evening a week. Anyone can take part and the more people that do the better picture scientists at BTO will have of our Tawny Owls - you can even do it from the comfort of your bed." 

The first thing to do is to decide on a location and register online at or email gbw [at] for more information. The survey runs from 30 September 2018 – 31 March 2019. You don’t have to commit to listening every week, but you’ll be providing valuable data by recording for as many weeks as you can

The Tawny Owl is arguably our best known owl; even if you have never seen one you will probably recognise the 'twit-twoo' call uttered in harmony by a pair of Tawny Owls. The call of the female is an eerie 'kewick' and that of the male in reply is a shivering, 'whoo'. Put together and you get 'kewick-whoo' or put another way, 'twit-twoo'.

It is just as important, if you take part, to tell BTO if you don't hear an owl; they will then know where there aren't any owls and you can consider yourself a 'zero hero'. 

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.

4. A longer article, targeted at your region, is available if you would like one. This would feature text by Mike Toms (Owl researcher and writer) or Claire Boothby, and would be accompanied by images from the BTO's image library. We can promise an engaging feature with stunning images. If interested please contact mike.toms [at] ().

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