Video recorded by Urmas Lett, EENet.ee
Text from EOÜ Bird of the Year home page
The tawny owl is the most nocturnal of our owls.
Meeting tawny owls
The tawny owl can be seen and heard everywhere in cultural landscapes, and in the western islands in forested landscapes as well throughout the year, but the best time is the early spring activity period in March and April, when the birds are making territory calls. At dusk they can be seen sitting on road-side posts or crossing their hunting areas in a sloping flight – fields, meadows, parks, forest verges, country yards. The tawny owl is slightly larger than the other owl inhabiting cultural landscapes, the long-eared owl, but with shorter and broader wings and generally also a darker plumage.
Listening to calls
Tawny owls call in quiet nights all year round, but for listening the best period is the second half of March and early April just after sunset. Pairs inhabiting densely populated areas often also call at midnight when human-caused sounds (such as car noise) has subsided and neighbouring owls hear the territory calls of each other better.
The most typical tawny owl call is a resounding and far-reaching huu-uh-uh-uh-huuuu. Often, particularly close to the nest site, also a hollow kewitt, kewvitt call can be heard, often made by the female. The latter call can be heard all year round and from some pairs even more often than the previously described hooting. The highlights of call periods are March and early April and in autumn in August and September. In the Estonian western islands where the climate is milder and there are more tawny owls due to the absence of Ural owls the tawny owls call actively already during the first thaws in late winter.
The owls typically start calling ten - twenty minutes after sunset. They also call actively in the night towards morning, an hour or an hour and a half before sunrise. A few individuals call even after sunrise or occasionally even in mid-day on murky days.