The Sounds of Winter

Tawny Owl. Panoramio photo by bluearodynamique

While many species are looking for places to bed down for the winter for some it’s a very busy season.  Many species are looking for a mate at this time of year and a key way of doing this is through vocal communication.  Many of them will be very familiar, such as screaming foxes during the night, which can be quite an eerie sound. Their calls let other foxes know their whereabouts and also ward off competition.

Twit-twoo”

Another common sound at this time of year is the screech of tawny owls.  Despite being a woodland bird, they have adapted to living outside woodland and can be found anywhere there are trees.  This species pair up in the winter and the “twit-twoo” booming out into the dusk sky is often the sound of a courting male and female calling to each other.  In all, however, they have a total of twelve basic calls.  This species are very territorial and use the same flight paths and perches from which to hunt.  There are a pair of tawny owls living on the edge of the park which can be heard most evenings if you can brave a walk in your garden after dark.

The hidden larder

Owls can really struggle at this time of year as food becomes scarce. A Tawny owl’s diet consists of shrews, mice, voles, young rabbits, frogs, insects, worms and sometimes small birds.  It is particularly difficult for them when it snows as food becomes harder to find.  Thats why it is important to maintain suitable habitat for these prey species such as scrubby areas, long grass and unmanaged field edges which provide shelter and food and therefore good hunting grounds.

A cosy home

Tawny owls don’t build a nest and have been found in a number of strange locations including squirrel dreys, rabbit holes and rock ledges. All they need is somewhere level to lay their eggs. Providing nesting boxes for owls is a great way to help the species where they are struggling to establish.

For more information please see http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Tawny_Owl
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