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Life history and ecology of Tawny owls

Two tawny owls in their nestbox

Using a nestbox breeding population of tawny owls (Strix aluco), we are interested in addressing questions relating to life-history evolution, ecophysiology, foraging ecology and ecotoxicology. The tawny owl is a long-lived species and therefore it faces different trade-offs, compared with shorter-lived species. For example, theory predicts that they should prioritise investment in self-maintenance over reproduction. We are particularly interested in understanding how the environment shapes life-history strategies in this long-lived species and the physiological mechanisms underlying life-history trade-offs. This project, initiated in 2017, complements the extensive knowledge developed within the Life History and Functional Ecology group from studies of short-lived bird species, primarily those from the Paridae family.

The tawny owl is a medium-sized owl that primarily occupies broad-leaved forest, but adapts well to human-altered habitats, including urban areas. They are nocturnal, hunting small rodents and birds at night. Tawny owls are sedentary and breed between March and June, laying a clutch of 3-5 eggs. Two different colour morphs (brown and grey) can be found, and links have been demonstrated between morph-type, winter survival, and telomere dynamics.

In 2018, we initiated a partnership with Lunds Kommun (council with jurisdiction in Lund and surrounds) and are erecting nestboxes within urban areas in Lund. Owls in urban areas may experience high food availability, but foraging efficiency may be impeded by anthropogenic noise and light.

3 week old tawny owl

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Life history of owls

Tawny owl
Female Tawny owl