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Renewed call for volunteers to listen out for tawny owls

PUBLISHED: 09:00 12 January 2019

Evidence suggests tawny owls are disappearing from urban areas     Pic: Russell Savory

Evidence suggests tawny owls are disappearing from urban areas Pic: Russell Savory

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Researchers want members of the public to help them find out how Britain's most widespread owl is faring.

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) says evidence suggests that the tawny owl population is falling and it might be that they are disappearing from towns and cities. Taking part in the BTO’s Tawny Owl Calling Survey will help make this clearer.

Specifically, the BTO hopes citizen science can enable it to better understand how artificial light pollution and other aspects of urbanisation are impacting tawny owls. Researchers also want to look at seasonal changes in tawny owl calling to see if urbanisation plays a role in this too.

Tawny owls are very difficult to monitor, as they live their lives during the hours of darkness, so people often hear them rather than see them. The BTO wants people to listen for the distinctive ‘hoot’ calls of the males and sharp ‘kee-wick’ of the females.

The survey hopes to discover what impact light pollution might be having on tawnies   Pic: Ron  SmithThe survey hopes to discover what impact light pollution might be having on tawnies Pic: Ron Smith

READ MORE: Suffolk doing its bit to boost the population of the UK’s tallest bird

Anyone can participate - keeping an ear out for this most distinctive of owl calls from their garden, a local park or piece of woodland.

Tawny Owl Calling Survey Organiser at the BTO, Claire Boothby, said, “Getting involved couldn’t be simpler - just wrap up warm and give yourself 20 minutes to listen for the haunting calls of tawny owls between now and the end of March. You can listen from your garden, local wood or park, or even from the comfort of the sofa with your window open, and tell us whether or not you hear an owl.

A tawny owl couple   Pic: Laurence LiddyA tawny owl couple Pic: Laurence Liddy

“Don’t worry if you don’t hear one in your 20 minutes; that record is just as valuable.”

The BTO originally put the call out to the public in October last year and nearly 6,000 volunteers have already taken part. But the organisation, which has its base in Thetford, hopes to get least 10,000 people across the UK to participate,

More information can be found on the www.bto.org/owls website where a series of tawny owl recordings can be found for people to familiarise themselves with the various calls.

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