jon kean's picture

Tawny Owl disease?

Observed: 29th January 2009 By: jon keanjon kean’s reputation in Birdsjon kean’s reputation in Birds
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Can anyone identify if this tawny owl is diseased? We heard tawny owls calling all winter as they have done over the last 10 years we have been in the house. However, I came across this owl in mid-afternoon, full daylight. It was in a very torpid state and allowed me to get near enough to touch it. We have not heard the owls calling since. Does anybody know if they are subject to flu like disease and if that is fatal, or is the lack of calling just co-incidence? I know they do have quiet periods.

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Andrew Goodall's picture

Tawny Owl disease

Hi Jon

Difficult to tell but the fact it allowed you to touch it suggests something is not quite right. Its plumage does look dishevelled on its upper breast/face area, normally plumage is in tip top condition for flight. Maybe the grass was wet anyway?

Are you near a road, I wonder if it had been hit during the night and made it into your garden.

Not heard of Tawny Owl being hit by flu but that does not mean to say they have not.

Do you still have it in a freezer may be. Monks Wood used to look at birds of prey owls etc. but not sure whether they still do that.

Alot of dont knows I am afraid.



Rose's picture

Some more information

Hi Jon

Apparently you are more likely to hear a Tawny owl in the autumn or winter, as this is when they are setting up territories; however this doesn't mean you will not hear them at other times of the year.
This is a PDF from the BTO about Tawny Owls it has something about call at the end.

CEH at Monks wood closed down in January this year (I worked for them) and we did take in dead owls. I don't know If they still do but the contact for the remaining centres are on this link.

I had a very upsetting experience with a Tawny a few years ago, in the same sate as you describe, it died in the end. The results came back from CEH said it had a growth in its beak so could eat.

There is something called Trichomoniasis that could be a cause and various other parasites but as Andrew said you just can't tell from looking at a photograph.
This link is very useful it will take you to a chapter on owls (page 159) from the practical wildlife care book, and explains a bit about various things.

Maybe the Hawk and owl trust have more information?

Hope this helps,



the naturalist man's picture

Dead Birds of Prey

If you find a dead bird of prey the Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme are the people to send it to. Their web site is:

Here you will find information on how to package the body and where to send it to - they will repay the postage. The site is also a very interesting place to visit as it has a host of information on the way toxic chemicals in the environment have changed over the last twenty years or so. Mostly good news for once!

If you think a bird has died as a result of an offence then contact your local wildlife police officer.

Graham Banwell

Visit the iSpot Yorkshire forum for information on events, issues and news relating to 'God's own country'

jon kean's picture

Thanks for all your replies.

Thanks for all your replies. I could not send it to any of the organisations mentioned as it did fly away after I took the photograph, but it was very sluggish. There were no visual signs of having been injured in anyway - just the very wet, mucus covering on its beak and surrounds.

Jon Kean

Gareth Skinner's picture

Tawny Owl

Hi Jon

I am new to this site, I think it is great. About a year ago I had the pleasure of seeing a healthy Tawny Owl land on my fence in West Sussex for a rest in broad day light which was a very exciting rare sighting! As it stayed for several minutes I was able to get my camera with long lense, but as I was about to take the flew off in a flash. I was as much frustrated by the fact that I got no response from the RSPB, however I had a very clear view of this beautiful bird and will always remember how fortunate I was to see it.

Gareth Skinner

Rose's picture

glad you like iSpot!

HI Gareth, glad you like iSpot! Your right, to see a tawny owl right out in the open in full view and in broad daylight is relatively unusual. They almost always hunt between dusk and dawn but they are recorded hunting in the open during daylight when they have young in the nest, if you say it was about a year ago it would make it around now so It could be the case that it had young in the nest.
It is always such a nice experience seeing an owl.