Our most common nocturnal bird of prey. In Cumbria they are widely distributed, most numerous in sheltered woodland valleys but not found in the exposed treeless areas of the high fells. Breeding pairs in Cumbria estimated at 5,000 in 2001.
Habitat – found in deciduous and coniferous forest, also on farmland and gardens including in towns
Appearance – 37–39 cm. Similar size to a woodpigeon. Flight is fast direct and silent.
Voice – familiar “hooo hoo hoo” which is the male proclaiming his territory, the female sounds hoarser, sometimes there is a sharp “kee wick” .
Food – small mammals, insects , birds, frogs & earthworms
Population changes / Conservation – Formerly persecuted in game rearing areas, also suffered as victims of traffic on roads. Population has declined due to changes in agricultural practices and harsh winters which limit available prey.
Numbers helped by the provision of nest boxes and the variety in their diet. Population is currently fairly stable.