The Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) is the most abundant nocturnal raptor in Europe. It has been thoroughly studied in various regions, but its habitat preferences in Mediterranean environments remain poorly understood. With the aim to present novel information about this aspect of the ecology of the Tawny Owl, we established 115 survey stations in the Special Conservancy Area “Sierras de Talayuelas y Aliaguilla” (Castilla–La Mancha region, eastern Spain) and carried out nocturnal surveys by recording spontaneous calls and vocal responses to call playbacks. We then assessed environmental characteristics (vegetation types, soil type, altitude, potential competitors, and anthropic disturbance) in areas where owls were detected or not detected during the breeding season. Overall, we detected 60 responding owls at 49 survey stations during breeding season in the study area (i.e., density 1.22 owls/km2). We found that Tawny Owls preferred lower altitudes and patchy heterogeneous areas. Owls seemed to avoid natural grasslands and areas characterized by limestone soils and associated vegetation, and preferred areas characterized by clay soils and associated vegetation. Interestingly, we did not detect owls close to wind farms, which seem to create a buffer effect on owls’ occurrence. The noise generated by the turbines might be a limiting factor that could account for this avoidance. Our multivariate results showed that Tawny Owls preferred heterogeneous patchy habitat but avoided non-irrigated arable land. Tawny Owls inhabit Mediterranean landscapes where conditions are favorable, but human activities such as wind farms may limit their distribution. Additional research is needed to determine the drivers of this avoidance and whether Tawny Owls also avoid wind farms in other regions of their range.
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Vol. 54 • No. 4