Family Typical Owls (Strigidae)

Least Concern

Tawny Owl (Strix aluco)


French: Chouette hulotte German: Waldkauz Spanish: Cárabo común

Strix Aluco


, 1758,



Probably closely related to S. butleri; formerly considered to include latter as race. Has hybridized with S. uralensis#R. Until recently, included S. nivicolum (with ma and yamadae) as subspecies, which differs in having entirely different song (a double “huhu”, repeated with a space of several seconds, vs the two-stage “huuu (long pause) wu-hrrruuu” of aluco (4); considerably darker plumage (dark brown vs grey-brown, greatly reduced white admixed with grey) (2); markedly more strongly barred tail (2); overall similar size but shorter tail (160–192 mm vs 205–220 mm in published data) (at least 1). Geographical limits of races obscure; nominate aluco intergrades with siberiae, and sylvatica with sanctinicolai. Several additional races named, but considered probably not acceptable because of species’ considerable individual variation and polymorphy; populations from Iberia, Asia Minor and Middle East sometimes separated as clanceyi (included in sylvatica), those from SW Russia as volhyniae (now in nominate) and those from S Caspian as obscurata (subsumed within willkonskii). DNA barcoding shows strong genetic differences between the North African race mauritanica and the Iberian populations#R. Eight subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. a. aluco Linnaeus, 1758 – N & E Europe E to W Russia (Ural Mts), S to Alps, Balkans and Black Sea.
  • S. a. siberiae Dementiev, 1933 – from Ural Mts to W Siberia.
  • S. a. sylvatica Shaw, 1809 – Britain, W France and Iberia; probably this race also from S Italy and Greece E to W & C Turkey and Middle East.
  • S. a. mauritanica (Witherby, 1905) – NW Africa (Morocco to Tunisia).
  • S. a. willkonskii (Menzbier, 1896) – NE Turkey, Caucasus and NW Iran E to SW Turkmenistan.
  • S. a. sanctinicolai (Zarudny, 1905) – NE Iraq and W Iran.
  • S. a. harmsi (Zarudny, 1911) – S Kazakhstan S to Tajikistan (foothills of W Tien Shan and Pamir Mts).
  • S. a. biddulphi (Scully, 1881) – NE Afghanistan, N Pakistan and NW India.
  • Descriptive notes

    37–39 cm; wingspan 94–104 cm; male average 440 g, female average 553 g (nominate aluco). Medium-sized owl with noticeably stocky body, large and round... read more


    Long, quavering hoot, followed by faint monosyllable, a short pause, and then extended soft tremolo... read more


    Open and semi-open forest, woodland, farmland with trees, parks, larger gardens in villages and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Small mammals, from small rodents and shrews up to size of squirrels and young rabbits, and small birds up to size of pigeon; also... read more


    Season typically Feb–Jul; egg laying occasionally begins in late Jan. Monogamous (socially and genetically), pairs for life;... read more


    Resident. Breeding adults remain in territory all year. Juveniles disperse by late autumn, in... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Generally common throughout range. European population in mid-1990s estimated at c. 400,000–560,000 pairs, plus... read more

    Recommended citation

    Holt, D.W., Berkley, R., Deppe, C., Enríquez Rocha, P., Petersen, J.L., Rangel Salazar, J.L., Segars, K.P., Wood, K.L. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Tawny Owl (Strix aluco). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 7 April 2020).