Barn Owl Tyto alba
Did you Know?
>> Although widely known beforehand, it was in 1769 when Giovanni Scopoli, an Tyrolean naturalist, first officially described the (Europena) Barn Owl.
>> The species name “alba” also refers to the color white. Other names for the Barn Owl have included Monkey-faced Owl, Ghost Owl, Church Owl, Death Owl, Hissing Owl, Hobgoblin or Hobby Owl, Golden Owl, Silver Owl, White Owl, Night Owl, Rat Owl, Straw Owl, and Delicate Owl.
>> The Barn Owl calls infrequently, the usual call being a drawn-out rasping screech.
>> The ear openings are at slightly different levels on the head and set at different angles. They are covered by a flexible ruff made up of short, dense feathers, which frame the face, turning it into a dish-like amplifier for sound.
>> Up to 70% of wild Barn Owls die in their first year. Survivors live approximately 5-8 years in the wild.
>> As their name suggests, they commonly select man-made structures in which to live: silos, water tanks, church towers, and barns are favored sites.
>> They are 14 to 20 inches tall with a wing-span of 40 to 45 inches.
>> When threatened, they lower their heads, spreads their wings, and sway from side to side, while making a growling sound. This defensive act is called toe-dusting.
>> A barn owl can eat more than its own weight of mice and rats in one evening.
General Information on the Barn Owl
A large owl with a prominent white, heart-shaped facial disc, dark eyes, and no ear tufts. The legs are long and unfeathered. The plumage is sandy brown streaked with white and blue with pale or white underparts.
Nearly worldwide in distribution, the Barn Owl can be found in Australia, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, as well as North and South America. It is most common between latitudes 40N and 40S of the Equator.
A grassland species, the Barn Owl relies on open fields for hunting. As agriculture opened up the eastern forest in the 1800s, the Barn Owl’s range expanded. Recent plowing and urbanization of grasslands has reduced available habitat, leading to a subsequent reduction in Barn Owl numbers in those areas.
A cavity nester, the Barn Owl readily uses to human-made structures and they are well-known in Europe for using buildings and church steeples as nest sites. This owl will also use properly placed nest boxes. Barn Owls can be prolific breeders, hatching two broods in one year. In Europe, the typical number of young is three to six, but broods of up to 18 young have been reported.
A nocturnal species, the Barn Owl hunts over fields and grasslands, preying primarily on small voles, mice, and rats. Its dependence on this food source makes it very susceptible to habitat loss.