Where and how to spot an owl

In the past owls have often been linked to the supernatural, with their nocturnal habits and wide staring eyes. If you hear an owl’s hoot then according to folklore a witch is approaching.

These days such superstitions have died out, but there is still something magical about seeing one of these animals in the wild. It’s not an experience that children or adults are likely to forget.

Our experts have put together a few tips to help you spot these fascinating creatures and a selection of places where they have been regularly sighted.

Tips for spotting owls:

‘Barn owls are usually sighted just after dawn and just before dusk. They like to hunt over rough grass where there’s lots of field voles, particularly when it is windless and dry.

‘Listen out for tawny owls. They make the archetypal hooting noise and are most vocal after dusk from mid-October until April.

'Little Owls are often difficult to see because they only fly at night and are intermittently noisy, being silent for lengthy periods. However, on warm and sunny days during the winter, they can sometimes be seen 'basking' in old trees.

‘Short-eared owls come to the UK for winter, from the tundras of Northern Europe. If you see an owl flying in the day it’s most likely to be this species. Look out for them in open spaces and grasslands.’
- Martin Lester, countryside and community manager, Wicken Fen

'Look out for pellets as these are a sure sign that owls are nearby. This is the easiest way to find a barn owl. I often see pellets deposited on gate and fence posts. Dissect them to see the bones of the creatures they have eaten.’
- Nicholas Hinchliffe, ranger, Brockhampton Estate