Backyard Birds

Tawny Owl Subspecies / Taxonomy

Subspecies, Ranges, and ID:

The taxonomy of this owl is disputed. Up to 15 subspecies have been differentiated in the past likely based on color variations and those factors are influenced by the color of their local habitat (camouflage), the ambient temperature, as well as available food items/prey – and not necessarily by genetics.

It is likely that some of the subspecies will be combined in the future, or new subspecies may be genetically identified …

Tawny Owl

Below is a list of the most commonly recognized subspecies.

  • Tawny Owl (Strix aluco – Linnaeus, 1758) – Nominate Race
    • Range: Northern, central, and eastern Europe east to western Russia (Ural Mountains), south to the Alps and the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Hybridizes with the Siberian Tawny Owl (Strix aluco siberiae) in areas where their ranges overlap.ID Both color morphs occur in much of the European range; however, brown birds predominate in the more humid climate of western Europe; and the grey phase is more common further east and north.
      • [Strix aluco volhyniae] – from southwestern Russia – usually considered invalid [Strix aluco doderleini] – usually considered invalid
  • Eurasian Tawny Owl, Korean Tawny Owl (Strix aluco ma – Clark, 1907)
    • Range: Northeastern China (Jilin province) east to Korea
  • Common Tawny Owl, Eurasian Tawny Owl (Strix aluco sylvatica – Shaw, 1809)
    • Range: Western Europe – Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, and the rest of the Iberian Peninsula. Also believed to occur in southern Italy and Greece east to western and central Turkey and the Middle East. Hybridizes with the Zagros Tawny Owls (Strix aluco sanctinicolai) in areas where their ranges overlap.
      • [Strix aluco clanceyi – Jordans,1950] – from Iberia, Asia Minor, and the Middle East – usually combined with sylvatica
  • Pakistan Tawny Owl, Scully’s Wood Owl (Strix aluco biddulphi – Scully, 1881)
    • Range: Occurs naturally in northwestern Pakistan south to the Kashmir region in northwestern India
      ID: Underparts are barred, not striped’; and they have fine lines around the facial disc.
  • Tawny Owl (Strix aluco)
    Eurasian Tawny Owl, Siberian Night Owl, Siberian Tawny Owl (Strix aluco siberiae – Dementiev, 1933 )
    • Range: From central Russia through the Ural Mountains to western Siberia. Hybridizes with the nominate form, Strix aluco aluco, in areas where their ranges overlap.
    • ID: Grey and white plumage; about 12% larger, 40% heavier, and with 13% longer wings than western European birds.
  • Eurasian Tawny Owl, North-west African Tawny Owl (Strix aluco mauritanica – Witherby, 1905)
    • Range: Northwestern Africa, from Morocco east to Tunisia and south to Mauritania
    • ID: The plumage is mostly dark grey-brown.
  • Caucasian Night Owl, Caucasian Tawny Owl, Eurasian Tawny Owl (Strix aluco willkonskii – Menzbier, 1896)
    • Range: Northeastern Turkey, Caucasus, and Northern Iran, south to Palestine and east to Turkmenistan
      • [Strix aluco obscurata] – from the area around the Southern Caspian Sea – usually considered invalid
  • Eurasian Tawny Owl, Zagros Tawny Owl (Strix aluco sanctinicolai – Zarudny, 1905)
    • Range: Northeastern Iraq and western Iran. Hybridizes with the Common Tawny Owl (Strix aluco sylvatica) in areas where their ranges overlap.
  • Turkestan Common Night Owl, Turkestan Tawny Owl (Strix aluco haermsi – Zarudny, 1911)
    • Range: Turkmenistan (one of the Turkic states in Central Asia)
  • Strix aluco yamadae (Yamashina, 1936)
    • Range: Taiwan

The Tawny Owl is by some authorities considered a subspecies of the below:

  • Himalayan Owl (Strix nivicola nivicola – Blyth, 1845)
    • Range: Nepal east to southeastern China, south to northern Myanmar and Thailand

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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