STATUS IN THE WILD: Least Concern
RANGE: All continents excluding Antarctica
PHYSICAL FEATURES AND CHARACTERISTICS
Barn owls are most recognizable by their ghostly pale color and heart-shaped facial disc. The facial disc is white with a brown edge and a brownish wash between the lower edge of the eyes and the base of the whitish-pink bill. Eyes are brownish-black. The top of the head, back, and wings are yellowish-brown to orange-buff, covered partly by a pale ashy-grey veil marked with scattered white spots surrounded by black. The tail is similar, with a few darker bars and with white dots near the tips of the feathers. Their bellies and under the wing area are whitish or pure white with a few small, dark drop-shaped spots (often seen more on females). The legs are feathered white almost to the base of the mostly bare toes, which are pale grayish-brown and dirty yellow underneath. Claws are brownish-black. Barn owls do not hoot, instead they emit a long, eerie screech. They also hiss, snore, and yap.
LIFESTYLE AND REPRODUCTION
Barn owls are well suited to their nocturnal lifestyle. Their large eyes enable them to have fantastic eyesight even in the darkness of night, but barn owls also have incredibly accurate hearing. A barn owl’s ears are set with one higher than the other, giving it better hearing in general. This also means that when the barn owl is hunting for prey, it can use one ear to detect noise on the ground below and the other to detect noise from the air and trees above.
Barn owls are usually monogamous, sticking to one partner for life unless one of the pair dies. To form pairs, males perform display flights, including loud wing-claps. Once bonded, the pair will use natural sites in caves and hollow trees or artificial sites like barn lofts, church steeples, abandoned houses, dry wells, crevices under bridges, or nest boxes to lay their eggs. When no existing cavities are available, barn owls will dig holes in dirt banks and arrange debris into a crude depression instead of building a real nest.
Female barn owls lay a clutch of up to seven eggs in the warm months of spring, which will usually hatch after about a month. The male barn owl will help feed the chicks until they are able to fly, which is usually at twelve weeks old.
The barn owl is one of the most wide-ranging birds in the world, found in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Australia.
Barn owls typically nest in tree holes, ruins, or farm buildings, which is reflected in their common name. They prefer areas with open or semi-open country in lowlands. They may nest in forests or cities if there is good hunting territory close by.
Barn owls most commonly hunt small mammals, such as mice, voles and rats, but also hunt fish close to the surface of the water and smaller birds in the treetops.