Tawny owls are fairly frequent visitors to the S.O.S. raptor hospital all year round. Often they are casualties from road traffic accidents; sometimes, during the winter months they are victims of harsh weather; during the breeding season, young “branchers” arrive, having fallen from their nest site.
This week a tawny came to us as a referral from a local veterinary practice. A member of the public had taken the bird in after rescuing it from the side of the road. The owl was wrapped in a towel for the safety of both staff and bird and carefully assessed.
Some bruising was apparent on the head, eye and wing on its right hand side - injuries consistent with a collision with a vehicle. Happily, none of the injuries were serious enough to compromise the bird in any way, so a period of rest in a secure environment, away from predators and with regular feeding, was the prescribed treatment. We expect to release this individual, fit and healthy, back to the wild in a week or so.
Although tawny owl numbers locally appear to be fairly stable, numbers have declined steadily over the last few years nationally to the point where the birds’ conservation status has recently been elevated from green to amber.
As a consequence, the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary has renewed it’s efforts to support and protect this iconic owl through the nationwide distribution of a “Tawny Troubles” leaflet explaining the plight of the tawny owl population with reference to what is being done to help reverse the trend.
The BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) is currently undertaking a survey to investigate the demise of tawny owls more closely. Their programme is designed to bring interested parties into contact with tawny owls, improve their knowledge of the bird’s condition and support the monitoring work undertaken by local groups like Suffolk Owl Sanctuary. Hopefully, this proactive initiative will kick-start long-term projects and ultimately contribute to increasing the breeding success of tawnies.
Aside from the rescue and rehab endeavours to return birds fit and flying free back to the wild from instances like the one above, in partnership with the Thornham Owl Project the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary helps to maintain and monitor a network of secure wild owl nest boxes suited to the nesting habits of the tawny owl.
Project founder Roger Buxton observes that there is “an urgent need to expand our knowledge of this species so that we are in the best possible position to provide advice on issues that may impact them, whether they are changes in planning policy, alterations to agri-environmental schemes, the management of our woodland estates or climate change.
Through the work of the nest box scheme and a variety of educational outreach projects, the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary offers practical support and strives to realise positive outcomes for the local tawny owl population.