Tawny owl study calls for volunteers to listen

The public has been invited to report tawny owl calls this autumn and winter. 

Tawny owl study calls for volunteers to listen

Tawny owls are most frequently recorded in and around gardens. © Laurence Liddy/BTO


The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is looking for volunteers to participate in a national study of tawny owls and their calling behaviour to increase our understanding of the birds.

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.

Researchers want to discover how urbanisation and artificial lighting impacts the likelihood of hearing tawny owls. They are eager to obtain feedback from all over the country.


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© Laurence Liddy

The 'tu-whit, tu-woo' owl call is now thought a corruption from a male which hoots and a female’s call, now often rendered ‘keewick’ © Laurence Liddy/BTO


This is of concern as the birds are reliant on vocalisations to show ownership of a breeding territory, as well as attracting a mate and reinforcing a pair bond.

Previous studies from the BTO have found that the time of day, moon cycle and weather all influenced tawny owl calling behaviour.

This current study builds on information collected by 3,465 volunteers in 2005–2006, who listened for tawny owls in their gardens.

During this 2018–2019 study people are being asked to listen out for tawny owls from their garden, a local park or pretty much anywhere they like. Once a week for 20 minutes, from 30 September until 31 March 2019. 

Find out more about the BTO study at www.bto.org/owls.


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