A Melanistic Tawny Owl

from Croatia

This strangely dark-looking tawny got trapped inside a greenhouse after entering at night through a ventilation window. Damir Rogulja, the owner of the property, took these photographs before releasing the owl back into the wild. The photos were posted on a Slovenian site, where they were widely discussed. Apparently because a melanistic Ural Owl had been found dead in Slovenia some time before, the owl was identified as one of that species. In fact there's absolutely no doubt that it is a Tawny Owl, though one with unusually dark colouration.

The area is one of dense woods and forests with intervening plains and rivers a little way southwest of Zagreb. Damir Rogulja has what sounds like a wildlife enthusiast's dream property, with a garden and hazelnut plantation set amidst woods (rather like here in Kent really!). A nature lover, he keeps bees and looks after the local wildlife, including reptiles, amphibians, and birds of prey like this injured buzzard.

In 2008 Damir put up this rather nice tawny owl nestbox, which very soon attracted a local pair. Apart from my customary reservation about the lack of a ledge (for the chicks' safety), this is a box of really generous proportions and it's no surprise that it was occupied so quickly!


My thanks to Vesna Zadravec for bringing the discussion of the melanistic tawny to my attention and to Damir Rogulja for kind permission to reproduce his photos here.

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