Sunday, 12 December 2010

Late Night Wol

Nearly every night we hear a lot of Whoo-hoo-hooing from the trees outside the house. When we brave the frost we can hear that this male tawny owl [strix aluco] chouette houlotte is calling to another about a quarter of a mile away, somewhere in the woods on the hill. A single tawny owl does not go 'tu whit tu whoo' whatever Shakespeare may have said - the 'tu whit' call is the female, and the 'tu whoo' is the male. A pair may call to each other from regular positions. A male will also sing out to another male "keep orrfff moy laaand!" It is possible to call a male tawny owl quite close to you by hooting into your hands when you are on its territory - I've seen Tim do it.

This was a bird on the edge of inner-city Leeds, where railway cuttings, allotment sites and parks provide a diverse habitat for it. I'm a city gal, and I've heard tawnies in every city I've lived in. They seem to me to be more capable of coping with humanity's effect of the environment than the barn owl. A barn owl likes open rough meadow (but not too rough), with suitable old trees or "cliffs" (buildings) with holes to nest or roost in, whereas the tawny will happily hunt in a shrubby back garden and roost in a roadside tree. Barn owls also seem to be a more common road casualty than the tawny although maybe those white feathers are more visible. At the moment our meadow is too rough and the barn owl seems to have moved out of our barn. The tractor is on order, Madam, so we hope next year you'll come back!


Nadege said...

It might be strange but I really like to listen to owls at night (not that it happens too often in Los Angeles).

Pollygarter said...

Nadege, they really keep your feet on the ground somehow!