Detailed ophthalmological examinations were made on 128 of the 216 free-living tawny owls (Strix aluco) examined at a wildlife hospital in the south west of England during the years 2000 to 2002. There were significant lesions in the eyes of 96 (75 per cent) of the birds examined. There were 147 adult birds admitted, of which 89 (60·5 per cent) were due to road traffic accidents; only 13 of these birds (14·6 per cent) were normal. Sixty-nine juvenile birds were admitted, 36 (52 per cent) of them as ‘orphans’. Only 25 of the juvenile birds were examined ophthalmologically, and of these 13 (52 per cent) were normal. The ophthalmological examination included a Schirmer tear test the results of which were consistently lower than is normal for some other families of birds.