Volunteers are being urged to spend 20 minutes each week stood in their back garden – counting the hoots of owls.
In a bid to learn more about the famous Tawny Owls, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is appealing to the British public to help track their movements by listening to their calls.
The trust aims to get 5,000 volunteers to participate in the national Tawny Owl Calling Survey, launched today, and listen out for the birds throughout the autumn and winter months.
Brown owls are in decline, having fallen by a third over the last ten years, and the species has recently been added to the amber list of Birds of Conservation Concern.
This global conservation status is based on bird surveys by volunteers using seven criteria to assess the population status of bird species, placing it on the red, amber or green list.
Claire Boothby, BTO survey organiser, said: “You can listen from pretty much anywhere you like for 20 minutes one evening a week.
“Anyone can take part and the more people that do the better picture scientists at BTO will have of our Tawny Owls.
“You can even do it from the comfort of your bed.”
Participants first pick a location and register online and are asked to provide data for 20 minutes per week or as much as possible during from September 30 until the end of March.
Volunteers can ‘listen for the distinctive hoot and ‘keewik’ calls of Tawney Owls before visiting the charity’s website to share what they have heard.
The site also provides descriptions of each species and where they are found, to help the public to identify the owls, as well as audio clips of their different callings, ranging from a shrill screech to the more stereotypical hoot.
Claire added: “The Tawny Owl is arguably our best known owl.
“Even if you have never seen one, you will probably recognise the ‘twit-twoo’ call uttered in harmony by a pair of Tawny Owls.
“The call of the female is an eerie ‘kewick’ and that of the male in reply is a shivering, ‘whoo’.
“Put together and you get ‘kewick-whoo’ or put another way, ‘twit-twoo’.
“It is just as important, if you take part, to tell BTO if you don’t hear an owl.
“They will then know where there aren’t any owls and you can consider yourself a ‘zero hero.'”
By Ben Gelblum and Laura Sharman