The owl is a predatory night bird from the owl family. These are dangerous hunters with excellent hearing, exterminating rodents and other small animals. They can live both deep in the forest, and right in the city, settling in an abandoned building. Usually harmless to humans unless they are protecting the nest.

Origin and Description

Photo: Tawny Owl

Photo: Tawny Owl

There are several main versions of the origin of birds. According to one of them, Archeopteryx is considered the oldest species, and they appeared in the Jurassic period and were related to maniraptor dinosaurs. According to another hypothesis, they arose earlier, back in the Triassic period, and descended from archosaurs, and Protoavis became the first bird.

But before the appearance of owls, in particular the owl, it was still far away – it is assumed that their ancestors were arboreal climbing birds related to the crustaceans, and the first owls appeared already at the end of the Paleocene.

Video: Tawny Owl

The oldest owl known to science is the fossil Ogygoptynx wetmorei. The genus to which it belonged has completely died out, like the other owls that appeared first. The oldest tawny owls found by paleoanthologists date back to the Lower Pleistocene, so they lived about 600,000 years ago, which is very short by evolutionary standards.

It is assumed that the oldest owls were active during the day and fed mainly on insects, perhaps specialized in carrion. Over time, they switched to a nocturnal lifestyle – this was largely due to the fact that the largest insects are active at night, and owls adapted to their rhythm of life.

In addition, at night they had much fewer competitors. Over time, their priorities changed and they began to feed primarily on rodents, although many modern owls, including the owl, sometimes eat insects. They also developed their own style of hunting, based not on flight speed, like diurnal birds, but on secret tracking of the victim and a surprise attack.

The scientific description of the owl was made by Carl Linnaeus in 1758, he also gave the genus the name Strix, and also described many individual species. This process continued during the 18th-20th centuries, and the Desert Owl was completely isolated only in 2015, it was previously considered a subspecies of the pale.

Appearance and features

Photo: Tawny Owl

Photo: Tawny Owl

The body length of a sexually mature individual can vary from 30 to 70 centimeters, depending on the species – some are quite small, while others are quite impressive in size for birds. The common owl is one of the smallest – its size is usually 35-40 centimeters, and its weight does not exceed 600-700 grams.

The owl has no feather “ears”, this is an important sign by which it can be distinguished externally from many other owls. At the same time, it has large ear holes covered with a leather fold. The beak is located high, and distinctly flattened from the sides.

The plumage can be gray to distinctly rufous, often with dark brown spots. The eyes are dark, in some species yellow (for example, in the tawny owl). The plumage is soft, the owls are very fluffy, due to which they look much larger than they really are.

Since the owl hunts in the dark, it relies primarily on hearing, fortunately, it is excellent. The design of its wings prevents it from flying as fast as diurnal predators like falcons and hawks, and also from doing the same complex somersaults in the air. owl chicks. It is worth doing this unless they are injured, and then not without fear – their parents may suddenly appear. A healthy owl chick will be able to return to the nest on its own.

Where does the owl live?

Photo: Great Owl

Photo: Great Owl

The range depends on the species, sometimes they may not even intersect.

For example:

  • Chaco the owl lives in the Gran Chaco, in South America, as well as in the surrounding areas;
  • The tawny owl prefers to live in Egypt, Syria, Israel and Saudi Arabia;
  • black-and-white and spotted cyckabs live in Central America, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador;
  • Tawny Owl – in the taiga from the Murmansk region to Primorye.

In addition to these, there are and many other types. Some of them can be found almost everywhere: from the south of Argentina to the equator and the Arctic Circle. At the same time, they are sedentary, that is, they live in the same place where they were born. If the tawny owl moves away from the place of birth, it is only because conditions have worsened there, and usually not far.

They live in deciduous, coniferous or mixed forests, while it cannot be said that they are very demanding on the environment, and sometimes they can even settle right in cities, choosing trees in the park or unused attics – they are attracted to the fact that it is much easier to get food in the city, than in the forest.

Still, most of the tawny owls are not tempted by this and live in forests, for nests they choose hollows in old trees or simply settle in an abandoned nest of another bird. They don’t live in the mountains – they don’t climb above 2,000 meters, and you can rarely meet them at these heights.

Places for living are chosen not far from glades or edges – they are best able to hunt in open space, and not in a dense forest, where it is far from convenient to do so.

What does the owl eat?

Photo: Owl

Photo: Owl

The menu of the Tawny Owl is based on:

  • rodents – mice, squirrels, and so on;
  • lizards;
  • frogs;
  • small and medium birds, like black grouse or hazel grouse;
  • insects;
  • arthropods;
  • fish.

Depending on the species and habitat, there are some nuances – for example, tropical owls can feed on large spiders. Most of the species hunt at night, although there are also daytime hunters – for example, the gray owl.

As a rule, these predators fly out for prey in the dark, listen carefully and catch every sound, even quiet and distant rustles do not elude them. Tawny owls approximately determine the size of prey by sound and, if it is suitable, that is, small enough, they go into ambush so as not to frighten away a potential victim with the noise of wings.

They then wait for the moment when she is at her most defenseless, and in one quick rush reach her, using their hearing almost exclusively to locate her exact location. Such a throw at prey is usually very fast, so that the victim does not even have time to come to his senses, as he finds himself in the claws of an owl – in some moments it overcomes 5-8 meters.

These birds exterminate rodents very effectively, and therefore, if the tawny owl settled close to cultivated land, this only benefits them. They prefer to feed on rodents, and look for other prey only if they fail to catch them, they can exterminate 150-200 mice in a month.

But for those who live in the north by harvesting skins, they do a lot of harm – they do not just exterminate valuable fur-bearing animals, but also often eat those that have already fallen into a trap, spoiling the skins – you don’t even need to catch them.

Peculiarities of character and lifestyle

Photo: Tawny Owl

Photo: Tawny Owl

Tawny Owl hunts in the dark, but not necessarily at night – often they do this in the evening twilight or in the early morning before dawn. In this regard, different species have their own preferences. Some owls even hunt during the day, and even those that are usually active at night can sometimes do so during the day – primarily in winter.

The tawny owl usually has quite a lot of time free from hunting and sleeping, it spends it in its nest or nearby, usually not showing much activity and just resting. At the same time, she is always on the alert and ready to attack even when she is resting.

If the owl notices something suspicious, it silently observes, trying not to give itself away. If she decided that the danger is serious, then she flies away just as silently, or attacks if it is necessary to protect the chicks. Tawny owls make almost no sounds at all, but at sunset they sometimes still start a roll call.

Then they begin to prepare for the hunt: they can fly a little in advance, usually low above the ground – during such flights they look out for future victims. Such flights become more frequent if there is little prey, and with its abundance, the bird usually does not worry and does not conduct such “reconnaissance”. If there is not enough prey around her house all the time, she can fly to another place.

The life expectancy of owls is determined by their size – the larger these birds, the longer they live on average. In common owls, accordingly, life expectancy is short and usually is about 5 years, while in larger species it can reach up to 7-8 years.

An interesting fact: Although the owls are usually inclined to a settled life, sometimes a large number of individuals can fly over long distances at once. In particular, they can settle in areas where this species was not previously represented at all, thus expanding their range. Such mass migrations involve young birds as they grow up in autumn.

Social Structure and Reproduction

 Photo: Tawny Owl Chicks

Photo: Tawny Owl Chicks

Tawny owls often live in pairs, they can also settle in larger groups, but at a relative distance from each other, because otherwise there will not be enough prey for everyone. However, it depends on the type of bird: there are more aggressive, not tolerant of the neighborhood of other owls, there are less – sometimes they even live on the same tree with birds of prey of other species.

Small birds, for example, passerines, react to a flying owl with alarm cries, warning relatives of danger. It usually does not compete with large predators, since they hunt during the day, but conflicts are still possible.

Some species are very territorial and tend to defend their “ownership”. If someone is in them, the bird screams and in every possible way demonstrates its readiness to attack, but does not immediately attack and gives time to leave. If the “violator” did not take advantage of this opportunity, he proceeds to active actions – cats, dogs, foxes, and people too have been attacked by owls more than once.

Pairs are not made up for one year – owls can spend their whole lives together. Monogamy is promoted by an approximately equal ratio of males and females at sexually mature age. But in some species, bigamy is also common – sometimes two females share one male, while they can have both one nest and two close to each other.

When breeding, there are pronounced species features. So, the Great Gray Owl, unlike other species, does not build nests at all, instead it settles in abandoned nests of other birds that are suitable in size. Usually, they arrange nests in hollows, sometimes in the attics of abandoned houses.

The beginning of the mating season is determined by the climate in which the owl lives. In a cold climate, it can come as soon as winter is over, and by the middle or end of spring, the chicks are already starting an independent life. In the tropics, it may be the end of summer or the beginning of autumn. Of the rituals, one can single out sound signals – when the mating season begins, the forest is filled with the prolonged hooting of males and short responses of females.

They lay eggs usually from 2 to 4, after which they are diligently incubated until the chicks hatch – usually it takes 4 weeks. Sometimes males also participate in incubation, but not in all species. They also protect the nest from predators and bring food to the females, who cannot stop incubating eggs for hunting.

In newborn chicks, the fluff is white, then dark stripes gradually cover them. By one and a half months, they already know how to fly a little, and completely fledge by 3-4. Almost immediately after that, they leave the nest and begin to live on their own, although in some species young owls can stay with their parents up to 6-7 months.

Natural enemies of owls

Photo: Tawny Owl

Photo: Tawny Owl

There are no specialized enemies – that is, no one deliberately hunts them. But this does not mean that owls are not in danger – in fact, there are quite a few of them. In addition to deadly diseases and malnutrition – very common causes of their death, large birds of prey can also be dangerous.

Eagles, golden eagles and hawks are primarily threatened by owls. Even though they are about the same size, these birds have much more advanced wings, which give them an advantage, they are also more aggressive and adapted to fight with other birds.

Although the Tawny Owl is able to stand up for itself, especially if she had to defend the nest – in this case, she fights with any aggressor, regardless of the chances, even if the bear decided to feast on the eggs. Therefore, it is better not to approach the nest – a furious bird can even deprive an eye.

Danger can also threaten from larger owls, primarily owls, as well as fellow tribesmen – usually owls do not conflict with each other, but there are exceptions. Most often they are associated with overpopulation of the area by owls, due to which conflicts arise between them for food.

No less often, a person becomes the cause of death of the owl: hunters shoot at them, they fall into traps set on rodents, or poisoned due to the control of the same rodents with zinc phosphide.

Population and species status

Photo: Tawny Owl

Photo: Tawny Owl

Almost all have the status of “least concern”. This means that their range is wide enough, and the population is large, so that nothing threatens them. Of course, due to the reduction in the number of forests, the owl is becoming less, but there is still quite a lot of space for them.

In addition, they are able to live in the space developed by people, even directly in settlements – and in such cases they hunt in nearby fields. Several species are still quite rare and have received the status of close to threatened – however, none of them is listed in the international Red Book.

But in some areas, rare species can be taken under protection if the goal is to preserve them in the region. For example, the Ural Owl is protected in the Baltic countries, Belarus, Ukraine, and also in some regions of Russia.

Various measures can be taken to preserve the population, for example, organizing artificial nests in areas where, due to rejuvenation forests, it is difficult to find an old tree with a suitable hollow for a nest. To do this, hollow logs or boxes knocked together from boards are hung on trees near the edges. 2 Hz, for comparison, the human ear can hear from 16 Hz. In addition, the ears are asymmetrically positioned, which allows you to better determine where the prey that made the sound is located.

The tawny owl is a nocturnal predator that plays an important role in the ecosystem. And it’s better not to make them angry, because even though they are quiet and small in size, they become very militant if they have to defend themselves. These are interesting forest birds for study, which should be distinguished from other owls – they have slightly different habits and lifestyle.

Rate article
Add a comment