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Order Owls/Strigiformes, Family Owls/Strigidae

Ural Owl/Strix uralensis - Adult

L 50-59 cm, WS 103-124 cm. Resident in old boreal forests interspersed with bogs, often also open water, clearfellings and small fields. In S Europe also mountain forests, beech woods. Food voles, frogs and insects (taken after watch from low perch), but is strongly built and takes also a variety of birds (incl. other owls!). Nests in tree trunk (‘chimney’), nestbox or abandoned raptor’s nest. Caution: Very aggressive when young about to leave nest and can attack intruder fiercely; keep your eyes fixed on the parents if you stumble on an inhabited nest, and leave area quickly!
IDENTIFICATION: Medium-large, head rounded, tail long and rather wedge-shaped (noticeable in flight); wings rounded. Flight direct, purposeful, recalling Common Buzzard. Plumage pale buffish grey-brown (paler than Tawny), streaked darker brown; in brief encounters, paleness is usually best clue. Eyes black, stand out well on plain buffish-grey facial discs. Bill yellowish. Upperwing evenly barred dark, lacking conspicuous pale patch on inner primaries of Great Grey Owl and Short-eared Owl. Uppertail evenly and boldly barred dark (cf. Great Grey).
VOICE: Call of female a raw, very harsh (recalling both Grey Heron and Eagle Owl) disyllabic ‘kre-ef!’. Alarm a loud, nasal barking ‘wak’. Song of male a deep cooing-like hooting, 7 notes in constant pattern, first two notes, then pause of c. 4sec., then two notes immediately followed by three more, ‘wo-ho…… woho uhwo-ho’, audible at 2 km in calm weather; female has higher-pitched, hoarse version. Alternative song of male (courtship, nestshowing, anxiety) a rapid series of 6-8 short, deep hoots, slightly increasing in pitch, pace and stress but decreasing at end, ‘po po po po po po’; female has harsher version. Begging-call of young much as for Tawny Owl (though deeper), a high-pitched, throaty ‘peechep’.

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