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Barn Owl

Barn Owl Barn Owl Both Sexes
Pale-golden buff above, white on face and below.
Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.
Tyto Alba
Length: 33-39 cm (13-15")
Wing Span: 85-93 cm (34-37")
Weight: 290-460 g (10-16 oz)
Breeding Pairs: 5 000
Present: All Year
Status: Amber

Description

The beautiful Barn Owl is mainly nocturnal, so for many of us a fleeting glimpse in the car headlights at night time is the commonest sighting. They are about the same size as Tawny Owls.

The white heart-shaped face and dark eyes are distinctive features of Barn Owls. The upperparts are a golden buff with pale grey and black mottling. The underparts and feathered legs are white.

The sexes are similar, but the female has slightly more streaking and spotting on the back and breast, and is larger than the male (wt. 330-460 g).

When they are seen hunting in daylight, they appear low over the ground with a moth-like flight, hovering quite frequently.

Voice

Choose from Quicktime and mp3. Call
  Quicktime mp3

The Barn Owl makes a variety of blood-curdling screeches and hisses.

Feeding

They hunt over open country for rodents (mainly voles), other small mammals, frogs, birds, and insects.

Prey are normally caught during the night, though when they are feeding young or struggling to find enough food during harsh winter weather the birds can be seen in the daytime.

Nesting

The nest site is usually in a tree or buildings, such as barns and derelict buildings, but also crevices in rocks and cliffs. At best the nest is a shallow hollow in existing debris. The birds usually pair for life.

The female alone incubates the eggs, which are white, smooth and non-glossy, and about 40 mm by 32 mm. The newly-hatched young are fed by both adults. As with many owls the eggs are laid at about 2 day intervals, but the eggs are incubated straightaway and so also hatch at about 2 day intervals. If food is in short supply, the parents feed the oldest (and biggest) chick and the younger ones die and become food for the surviving chick or chicks.

Barn Owls will use nest boxes.

Breeding Data
Breeding Starts Number of Clutches Number of Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
April 1-2 4-7 27-34 c. 60

Movements

Most Barn Owls are resident and sedentary, though juveniles disperse as soon as they are independent.

Conservation

In the last 30 years or so the Barn Owl population has fallen by something like 50-70%, but the population now seems to have stabilised (except in Ireland). The fall was largely a result of habitat loss through changes in farming practices, for example: loss of hedgerows where their prey lives. Owing to this recovery, the Barn Owl is on the Amber List of birds of conservation concern. However, not only are many Barn Owls killed in collisions with road vehicles, but increasing numbers of birds have been failing to breed in recent years.

My Garden

Barn Owls have not been seen in our neighbourhood.

Further Reading

"Owls", Whittet Books (details)


Last revision: 18 Dec 2015
Copyright © David Gains 1999-2017.
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