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Barn Owl


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Scientific Name: Tyto alba

Description: medium sized owl, bigger and darker in color than British cousin; long, sparsely feathered legs; rounded head without ear tufts; heart shaped facial disk has white feathers surrounded with a brownish edge; beak off white, long, and compressed; rounded wings and a short tail; back tawny brown, marked with black and white spots; underside grayish white with brown spots; one of the few owls with completely dark eyes; feet yellowish-white to grayish-brown; downy feathers and fringed wing feathers give silent flight; asymmetrical ear location—one ear higher on one side of the head than the other which allows them to triangulate sound for hunting.

Sex: both sexes similar in size and color, with females tending to be larger, heavier, and darker in color than males; females and juveniles generally more densely spotted; sexually mature at 1 year

Age: high mortality rate in the first year; average age of a wild barn owl is 2 years; few adults live beyond 3-4 years; captive birds have a much longer lifespan

Length: 16″

Wingspan: 2.5′

Weight: 9-13 oz.

Habitat: prefers open land, prairies, grasslands and agricultural area for hunting; nest in natural hollows in trees, cliffs, caves, nestboxes, barns and other structures

Range: British Isles, western France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and countries bordering the Mediterranean

Behavior: Barn owls are monogamous and mate for life. Barn owls usually choose to nest in holes in trees, or undisturbed buildings such as barns and outbuildings, ruins and, in some areas, mines, cliffs and quarries. Two broods may be reared. About 75 per cent of young die in the first year: survivors normally live for another one to three years. The greatest known age in Europe is more than 21 years; there are several records of 12-17 years.

Diet: Barn Owls eat mostly small mammals, particularly rats, mice, voles, lemmings, and other rodents; also shrews, bats, and rabbits. Most of the prey they eat are active at night, so squirrels and chipmunks are relatively safe from Barn Owls.

Vocalization: Barn Owls don’t hoot the way most owls do; instead, they make a long, harsh scream that lasts about 2 seconds. It’s made mostly by the male, who often calls repeatedly from the air. Females give the call infrequently. A softer, more wavering version of this is termed a purring call.

Fun Facts!
– American Barn Owls are about double the size of British Barn Owls, and their coloration as a whole is much darker.
– Barn Owl chicks make a hissing call, sometimes referred to as ‘snoring’, when in the nest.
– Barn Owls have acute hearing, with ears placed asymmetrically for improved detection of sound position and distance, and it does not require sight to hunt. Hunting nocturnally or crepuscularly, it can target and dive down, penetrating its talons through snow, grass or brush to seize rodents with deadly accuracy.
– Barn Owls have the best hearing of any animal ever tested, and can hear a mouse moving in a field up to a quarter of a mile away.
– Barn Owls don’t hoot, they scream! Their territorial and threat calls are so harsh and terrifying they are believed to have been the origin of the myth of the banshee.

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