Bird Families

Strix varia)


Tawny owl Is a nocturnal bird of prey from the owl family. These are dangerous hunters with excellent hearing, exterminating rodents and other small animals. They can live both deep in a forest massif, and right in the city, settling in an abandoned building. Usually not dangerous to humans, unless they protect the nest.

Origin of the species and description

There are several main versions of the origin of birds. According to one of them, Archeopteryx is considered the oldest species, and they appeared in the Jurassic period and were related to dinosaurs-maniraptors. According to another hypothesis, they arose earlier, back in the Triassic period, and descended from the archosaurs, and the protoavis became the first bird.

But before the appearance of owls, in particular owls, it was still far away - it is assumed that their ancestors were arboreal climbing birds, related to raksha-like, and the first owls appeared already at the end of the Paleocene.

The oldest owl known to science is the fossil Ogygoptynx wetmorei. The genus to which she belonged has completely died out, like the other owls that appeared first. The oldest owls found by paleoanthologists date back to the Lower Pleistocene - thus, they lived about 600,000 years ago, which is very small by evolutionary standards.

It is assumed that the earliest owls were active during the day and fed mainly on insects, possibly specialized in carrion. Over time, they switched to a nocturnal lifestyle - this was largely due to the fact that the largest insects are active at night, and owls have adjusted to their rhythm of life.

In addition, at night they had much fewer competitors. Over time, their priorities changed, and they began to feed primarily on rodents, although many modern owls, including tawny owls, sometimes eat insects. They also developed their own style of hunting, based not on flight speed, as in daytime birds, but on secretly tracking down the victim and a surprise attack.

The scientific description of the owls was made by Carl Linnaeus in 1758, he also gave the genus the name Strix, and also described many individual species. This process continued during the 18th-20th centuries, and the Desert Owl was isolated only in 2015; it was previously considered a subspecies of the pale owl.

Appearance and features

The body length of a sexually mature individual can vary from 30 to 70 centimeters, depending on the species - some are quite small, while others are quite impressive for birds. The common owl is one of the smallest - its size is usually 35-40 centimeters, and its weight does not exceed 600-700 grams.

Great gray owl

The owl does not have feather "ears", this is an important feature by which it can be distinguished externally from many other owls. Moreover, it has large ear holes covered with a leather fold. The beak is located high, and distinctly flattened from the sides.

The plumage can be gray to distinctly rufous, often with dark brown spots. The eyes are dark, yellow in some species (for example, in the pale owl). The plumage is soft, owls are very fluffy, due to which they look much larger than they really are.

Long-tailed owl

Since the tawny owl hunts in the dark, it relies primarily on hearing, fortunately, it is excellent. The device of the wings does not allow her to fly as fast as daytime predators like a falcon and hawks, and also to do the same difficult somersaults in the air.


The range depends on the species, sometimes they may not even intersect. For example: Tawny Owl Chaco lives in Gran Chaco, which is in South America, as well as in adjacent areas, the pale owl prefers to live in Egypt, Syria, Israel and Saudi Arabia, black-and-white and spotted tsikkabs live in Central America, Venezuela, Colombia , Ecuador, Great Gray Owl - in the taiga from the Murmansk region to Primorye.

Besides these, there are many other species. One of them can be found almost everywhere: from the south of Argentina to the equator and the Arctic Circle. Moreover, they are sedentary, that is, they live in the same place where they were born. If the tawny owl moves away from the place of birth, it is only due to the fact that conditions there have worsened, and usually it is not far.

They live in deciduous, coniferous or mixed forests, while it cannot be said that they are very demanding of the environment, and sometimes they can even settle right in cities, choosing trees in the park or unused attics - they are attracted by the fact that it is much easier to get food in the city. than in the woods.

Nevertheless, most of the owls are not tempted by this and live in forests, for nests they choose hollows in old trees or simply settle in an abandoned nest of another bird. They do not live in the mountains - they do not climb above 2000 meters, and even at these heights one can rarely meet them.

Places to live are chosen not far from clearings or forest edges - they are best at hunting in an open space, and not in a dense forest, where it is far from so convenient to do it.


The basis of the "menu" of the owl is: rodents - mice, squirrels and so on, lizards, frogs, small and medium-sized birds, like grouse grouse, insects, arthropods, fish. Depending on the species and habitat, there are nuances - for example, tropical owls can feed on large spiders. Most of the species hunt at night, although there are also daytime hunters - for example, the great gray owl.

As a rule, these predators fly out after prey in the dark, listen attentively and catch every sound, even quiet and distant rustles do not escape them. Owls roughly determine the size of prey by sound and, if it fits, that is, small enough, they go into ambush so as not to frighten off potential prey with the noise of their wings.

Then they wait for the moment when she will be most defenseless, and in one quick dash they reach her, using almost exclusively hearing to determine the exact location. Such a throw to prey is usually very fast, so that the victim does not have time to come to his senses, as it turns out to be in the claws of a tawny owl - that in some moments overcomes 5-8 meters.

These birds very effectively exterminate rodents, and therefore, if the owl settled near the cultivated land, it is only good for them. It is rodents that they prefer to eat, and they look for other prey only if they cannot be caught, they can exterminate 150-200 mice in a month. But for those who hunt in the north by harvesting skins from them a lot of harm - they not only exterminate valuable fur-bearing animals, but also often eat those already trapped, spoiling the skins - after all, they do not need to be caught.

Features of character and lifestyle

The owl hunts in the dark, but not necessarily at night - they often do it in the evening twilight or early in the morning before dawn. In this regard, different species have their own preferences. Some owls even hunt during the day, and even those that are usually active at night can sometimes do it during the day, primarily in winter.

Gray owl

The owl usually has quite a lot of free time from hunting and sleeping; it spends it in its nest or nearby, usually not showing much activity and just resting. At the same time, he is always on the alert and ready for an attack, even when he is resting.

If a tawny owl notices something suspicious, then silently observes, trying not to betray itself. If she decided that the danger is serious, then she flies away just as noiselessly, or attacks if it is necessary to protect the chicks. Tawny owls hardly make any sounds at all, but at sunset they sometimes start a roll call.

Barred Owl

Then they begin to prepare for the hunt: they can fly a little in advance, usually low above the ground - during such flights, they look out for future victims. Such flights become more frequent if there is little prey, and with its abundance, the bird usually does not worry and does not conduct such "reconnaissance". If the prey around her house is constantly in short supply, she can fly to another place.

The lifespan of owls is determined by their size - the larger these birds, the longer they live on average. In common owl owls, accordingly, life expectancy is short and usually is about 5 years, and in larger species it can reach 7-8 years.

Social structure and reproduction

Often, owls live in pairs, they can also settle in larger groups, but at a relative distance from each other, because otherwise there will not be enough prey for everyone. However, it depends on the type of bird: there are more aggressive ones that do not tolerate the proximity of other owls, there are less - sometimes they even live on the same tree with birds of prey of other species.

Small birds, for example, passerines, react to the flying owl with alarming cries, warning their relatives about the danger. It usually does not compete with large predators, since they hunt during the day, but conflicts are still possible.

Some species are very territorial and tend to defend their "domain". If someone is in them, the bird screams and in every possible way demonstrates its readiness to attack, but does not attack immediately and gives time to leave. If the "intruder" did not take advantage of this opportunity, he proceeds to take action - cats, dogs, foxes, and people too, have been attacked by the owls more than once.

Pairs are not made for one year - owls can spend their whole lives together. Monogamy is promoted by an approximately equal ratio of males and females at puberty. But in some species, bigamy is also common - sometimes two females share one male, while they can have either one nest or two near each other.

During reproduction, there are pronounced specific features. Thus, the Great Gray Owl, unlike other species, does not build nests at all, instead settles in the abandoned nests of other birds of suitable size. Usually, they arrange nests in hollows, sometimes in the attics of abandoned houses.

The beginning of the mating season is determined by the climate in which the owl lives. In cold climates, it can come as soon as winter ends, and by the middle or end of spring, the chicks already begin their independent life. In the tropics, it can be late summer or early autumn. Sound signals can be distinguished from the rituals - when the mating season begins, the forest is filled with a lingering hoot of males and short answers of females.

They usually lay eggs from 2 to 4, after which they diligently incubate them until the chicks hatch - this usually takes 4 weeks. Sometimes males also participate in incubation, but not in all species. They also protect the nest from the encroachments of predators and bring food to females who cannot break away from incubating eggs for hunting.

Newborn chicks have white down, then gradually dark stripes cover them. By one and a half months, they already know how to fly a little, and fully fledge by 3-4. Almost immediately after that, they leave the nest and begin to live independently, although in some species the young owls can stay with their parents up to 6-7 months.

Usage Information

Photo "A striped owl (Strix varia) sits on a tree" can be used for personal and commercial purposes according to the conditions of the purchased Royalty-free license. The image is available for download in high resolution quality up to 4558x3040.

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Home> Abstract> History

The Barred Owl (Latin Strix varia) is a North American species of owls. This is a forest dweller who can be heard more often than seen. The call that sounds like "hu-hu-hu-hu-o" is difficult to confuse.

The Barred Owl has no "ears", its eyes are black. A large frill stands out on the chest, starting directly under the beak. There are brown stripes on the belly. The length is approximately 35 cm, the wingspan is 85 cm.

The Barred Owl feeds on mice, voles and other small rodents; it also does not neglect birds, insects, frogs and fish.

In early spring, birds hatch 2-3 white eggs for 28 days. Chicks become independent after 4-5 weeks, but remain, however, for another 1 to 2 weeks in the vicinity of the nest. The life span of birds is over 20 years.

Boehme R.L., Flint V.E. A five-language dictionary of animal names. Birds. Latin, Russian, English, German, French. / under the general editorship of Acad. V.E.Sokolova. - M .: Rus. lang., "RUSSO", 1994. - P. 144. - 2030 copies. - ISBN 5-200-00643-0

Fish in the diet of owls:

Owls, eagle owls, long-eared owls actively catch river fish in nature.

On video gray owl (Strix varia) eating fish.

Gray owls in our latitudes actively hunt fish. Observations of gray owls (Strix aluco) in the Oka State Biosphere Reserve showed that, in addition to mouse-like rodents, tawny owls hunted perch, pike, ide, beetles of swimming beetles, and spindles and fed the chicks with them.

Fish in the diet of the gray owl (Strix aluco). V.P. Ivanchev, R.B. Bobkov, M.V. D idorchuk, M.V. Onufrenya, O.P. It is empty. Russian ornithological journal 1997 issue 7.

It should be clarified that sea fish should not be added to the diets of owls. Only river fish should be given.

Vegetable food for owls:

Many will be surprised to learn that owls happily eat fruits, berries, vegetables, sometimes even foliage and herbs (the latter refers to animal self-medication). Here is an example of an interesting observation, in this video gray owl (Strix aluco) eats oak leaves.

Owls eat apricots, cherries, grapes, ripe pears, tomatoes, zucchini. In captivity, there have also been cases of eager consumption by owls. bell pepper and chili, plums, bananas, fresh herbs and dandelion flowers, clover, plantain... Small insectivorous species are especially prone to accepting plant food - house owls, scops owls and other scoops.

In this video, an adult female Virginia owl (Bubo virginianus) eating grapes. It is interesting that this bird is tame and free, it can be seen that the bird lives on the territory of the site, reproduces and at the same time maintains a connection with the person who fed it.

The barn owl eats zucchini. Photo by Nika Kuklina

When kept in captivity, it makes sense to try to offer plant foods to all types of owls, because breeder food rodents, poultry, insects are poor food in comparison with their natural equivalent. In their natural environment, owls receive plant food by consuming whole animal and insect carcasses, along with the stomach and intestines filled with semi-digested chopped plant food.

Little Owl (Athene noctua). The owl is full of blueberries, which can be seen from the color of the beak. Photo by Nika Bison.

It should be noted that owls are more adapted to the processing and assimilation of plant feed than daytime predators, due to the presence of paired cecums (they are reduced in daytime feathered predators), which contain a specific microflora that participates in the fermentation and breakdown of plant components at the final stage of digestion ...

After eating a lot of berries or fruits, owls may have occasional diarrhea, especially if the owl takes these foods for the first time or very rarely. In these cases, no special measures to eliminate diarrhea are necessary.

Birds in the diet of owls:

In nature, all species of owls consume commensurate species of other birds from time to time.During the breeding season in the warm season, the share of poultry in the ration of owls increases due to the readily available chicks and fledglings of various species for hunting.

Pearl Sparrow Syk (Glaucidium perlatum) got a lovebird parrot. This photo illustrates the dangers of keeping small owls and other birds together. All photos in good quality can be viewed on the author's page.

In captivity, Japanese quails, day-old and grown-up chickens are used as additional feed. It is better to choose quails of the egg direction rather than meat and egg (large heavy breeds), because the latter, due to the rapid “broiler” weight gain and fattening, as a rule, have a high fat content. By age category pullets are preferable, i.e. quails at the age of 1-2 months, the skeleton of which is already sufficiently formed (which means that the owl will receive the necessary amount of minerals from the feed), but the quail has not yet had time to “work up fat”. From the carcasses of adult quails for owls kept in an apartment and having little ability to move, it is advisable to remove visible deposits of subcutaneous fat, most often they are located in the area of ​​the knee fold, abdomen, in the interclavicular fossa under the quail goiter. If you doubt the availability of veterinary service for poultry from your quail supplier, then it is necessary to gut the gastrointestinal tract, wash from the droppings or cut off the naked parts of the carcass paws - this is necessary to minimize the risk of transmission of pathogenic bacteria, helminth eggs, protozoan cysts that can carry in themselves quail because of the crowded content and "conveyor" breeding.

Young quails up to one month of age and day old chicks are inadequate food and can be introduced into the diet only for a change, since such food items are poor in calcium and phosphorus, and the yolk sac (it is located in the abdominal cavity of chickens and quails) has a high fat content, therefore, before feeding it is better for an owl to remove the yolk sac from chicken carcasses, however, from time to time, you can leave it and offer un-gutted day-old chicks: owls living in an apartment - no more than 1 time a week, and to aviary (especially wintering in outdoor conditions) - up to 3-4 times in Week.

Insects in the diet of owls:

Small owl species - owls of the genus Athene and scoops (dun, collar, Ussuri, scops owls) - in their natural habitat are mainly insectivorous species, although they do not neglect other food (murine rodents, small birds). It is desirable to enrich the diet of these species in captivity as much as possible with a variety of insect cultures - least They should be 50% of the feed. Other types of owls in nature also do not hesitate to catch and eat large beetles, dragonflies, and grasshoppers.

It is best to offer insects fresh. To increase the nutritional value of forage insects, it is advisable to feed the cockroaches / crickets with herbs or vegetables a few hours before feeding or freezing them for future use.

Live insects are well suited for enriching owls' habitat, as seen in the live cockroach feed of house owls.

All insects are easily digestible protein. Crickets and cockroaches are rich in chitin, which serves as a mechanical stimulator of gastric peristalsis and pellet material, and is also a natural hepatoprotector, i.e. participates in the restoration of liver cells. The moth caterpillars are rich in calcium (due to the specific diet on which they are grown - wheat germ) and have a minimum of fat. All three of these forage crops can be fed to owls without restriction.

Flourworm, zophobas, wax moth - also contain chitin, but in smaller quantities, while they have more fat (especially in zophobas) - these crops should be given only for variety and in limited quantities.

“Street” insects collected in nature can be offered, however, with the proviso:
1. collection of insects should be carried out in an ecologically clean area, where no treatment of plants with pesticides and herbicides is performed,
2. collection should be carried out away from highways and major roads due to the accumulation of salts of heavy metals by plants that serve as food for insects,
3. collection of certain types of insects that can be eaten by owls - for this are suitable May and June beetles, grasshoppers and filly, crickets, locusts, "hairless" caterpillars, butterflies and moths.

Other feeds for captive owls:

Rabbits, guinea pigs, adult rats: carcasses with bones, meat, wool and organs can be used to vary the diet and are given in portions about 1-2 times a week. As with other food animals, it will be more useful to use adult rodents and lagomorphs for food owing to the skeleton formed and saturated with minerals in comparison with young animals ("naked", "pubescent", "runners", etc.).

Variety of feed produced North American scoop (Megascops asio). The male feeds the female on the clutch - crustaceans, fish, rodents, amphibians. On the page of the author of the photo, you can see more photos in good quality.

“The white owls at Montrose Point, on the north side of Chicago, prefer to hunt rats. In the southeastern part of the lake, birds predominate in their menu. And in the area of ​​the airport in Midway, on the southwestern side of the city, voles are most common. In other words, they will eat whatever is available! But this is only information obtained from pellets and stomach contents, which suggest a limited overview of only part of their diet. ”

a source: SNOWY OWLS: What do they eat? - Study of the diet of polar owls in the vicinity of Chicago.

Unpeeled, not boiled shrimp, also containing chitin, along with insects, will become an interesting and useful delicacy that can be offered 1-2 times a week.

In addition to shrimp, some owls happily eat mussels - they are rich in trace elements and B vitamins, but at the same time they are quite fat. For a change, they can be offered to all types of owls in a small amount once a week or two, as well as other "wild" mollusks - snails, slugs... You can also find from the commercially available breeding feed Achatina snails.

Dry food for cats and dogs: in small quantities and as a treat, owls can be given high-quality dry food for cats and dogs. But this is best done after examining the bird and consulting a veterinarian.

In captivity, owls happily consume and dairy products, which serve to normalize the microbiocenosis of the gastrointestinal tract of a bird: once every 1-2 weeks, it can be offered in portions to a bird cottage cheese, kefir, fermented baked milk, yoghurts, yogurt, although it is not necessary that the bird will eat them, as well as the “non-trivial” foods from the list above.

General nuances of feeding owls:

Freezing "wild" feed: the issue of freezing / not freezing wild insects, mollusks, game meat and small river fish, in order to avoid infection of the owl with parasites, is controversial - if the bird is healthy, immunity can easily cope with the helminth eggs that enter the body. To monitor the state of the bird's body, a preventive examination once a year is sufficient, including the delivery of fresh droppings for analysis for parasites, and, if necessary, deworming. For owls regularly exercising outside or working on game, it makes sense to carry out preventive deworming every six months. If the owl lives in conditions of low mobility, has chronic diseases, then freezing will not be able to completely protect the bird from the drift of helminths with feed - a chronically sick owl with reduced immunity just as well “picks up” helminths from its environment, even if it lives in an apartment ... Therefore, freezing is not always justified: it kills / reduces the viability of only part of the parasites, while also destroying some nutrients in insects, especially vitamin B12.

Forage rodents - slaughtered live: It is not recommended to give food to domestic owls alive because of the risk of getting bites and introducing pathogenic microflora from the rodent's oral cavity into the wound, which can be a problem for a domestic owl with low activity and, accordingly, reduced immunity. In addition, domestic owls, especially those raised from a young age by humans and not hunting on their own, often cannot quickly seize and kill a mouse or rat.

At the same time, it should be noted that domestic owls regularly need to be offered freshly slaughtered food, which, unlike freezing, does not lose some of its useful qualities. The best option is to constantly feed the owls with fresh food.

Conclusion: All species of owls are polyphages. When composing a diet for owls (in general approximation), try to evenly distribute rodents, birds, fish, insects, crustaceans. Include vegetables, fruits, dairy products in your diets. If you care about the quality of life of your owls, provide them with a variety of food.

The authors:
Nika Kuklina
veterinarian Maria Markina
veterinarian Valentin Kozlitin
cover photo - owl Spruce... Author of photos and videos with brownie owls, as well as the author of important amendments and ideas Nika Zubra

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