The tawny owl (Strix aluco) is the most common species of owl found in Helsinki. Its presence is usually easiest to notice by its two-part hooting, the latter part of which is a broken quiver. The tawny owl also has calls reminiscent of tomcats, which is why its Swedish name is kattugla, or cat owl. In Estonian, it known as kodukakk, or home owl.
Tawny owl pairs stay in their home territory all year round, year after year, and almost always in close proximity to humans. Tawny owls nest in lime tree holes in manor house gardens and in urban forests in which owl researchers have set owl boxes for them. They can also make their nests in old barns and in the attics of abandoned houses. In mild winters, some tawny owls start nesting as early as January, and their chicks learn to fly by March.
The tawny owls of Helsinki prey on small rodents, thrushes and frogs. Sometimes they also snatch unsuspecting magpies or pigeons straight from their nests in the middle of the night.
Photo Eero Haapanen.