Tawny Owls missing from gardens

27 Jan 2016 | No. 2015-62

This is the time of the year when Tawny Owls can be frequently heard, and even seen, in gardens. This winter, however, fewer people have been reporting them to the British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) Garden BirdWatch.  Could this be a result of a poor breeding season?  Keep your eyes and ears out for these mysterious nocturnal visitors and help us keep track of their populations.

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Tawny Owls are vocal towards the end of the year, as young disperse to find their own territories and pairs communicate with their classic ‘tu-whit, tu-whoo’ duet. So far this winter, however, this activity has been scarce with Tawny Owls only being reported by 3.6% of BTO Garden BirdWatchers, the second lowest figure for this time of year in a decade.

These results come just weeks after Tawny Owl was added to the Amber list of UK Birds of Conservation Concern due to fears of a long-term decline. While it's hard to monitor nocturnal birds, there are indications that the number of breeding Tawny Owls in the UK has fallen by around a third in the last 25 years. Worryingly, the reasons for this trend are not fully understood.

Clare Simm from the BTO Garden BirdWatch team commented, "Data from the BTO’s Nest Record Scheme show that Tawny Owls had a poor breeding season, perhaps reflecting the lack of suitable prey available. This, combined with the findings from Garden BirdWatch, is disturbing news. If you have space in your garden, you can help Tawny Owls by leaving some grassy areas unmown as this will encourage small rodents to visit. If you have large trees it is also worth considering providing a Tawny Owl nest box."

Are Tawny Owls having a poor winter in your area? You can help us keep track of the ups and downs of this Amber-listed species, by taking part in the BTO’s Garden BirdWatch.

To find out more about taking part in BTO Garden BirdWatch, including a free enquiry pack and magazine, please get in touch by emailing gbw [at] bto.org, telephoning 01842 750050, write to GBW, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU or visit www.bto.org/gbw.

Notes for Editors

  1. The BTO Garden BirdWatch is the only nationwide survey of garden birds to run weekly throughout the year, providing important information on how birds use gardens, and how this use changes over time. Currently, some 13,000 people take part in the project. The project is funded by participants’ contributions and is the largest year-round survey of garden birds in the world. For more information see www.bto.org/gbw
  2. 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.www.bto.org

Contact Details

Clare Simm
(BTO Garden BirdWatch Development Officer)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: clare.simm [at] bto.org

Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Media Manager)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07585 440910 (anytime)
Email: press [at] bto.org

Images are available for use alongside this News Release.
Please contact images [at] bto.org quoting reference 2015-62

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

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