Barnaby – European Barn Owl
Hatched: Spring 2013
Barnaby was hatched at the World Bird Sanctuary’s Propagation Department. He was hand raised by our Education Department staff and fostered by one of our Naturalists. During this fostering period he was exposed to a variety of different situations which would prepare him for things he would encounter during his career as an education bird.
As an education ambassador Barnaby will encounter such “scary” things as umbrellas, strollers, wheelchairs, bands, and even horses. The careful exposures he received as a baby while in the care of his foster parent have taught him to trust that his trainers will protect him from scary things.
Species: European Barn Owl
Latin Name: Tyto alba alba
Description: medium sized owl, smaller and lighter in color than American 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. American Barn Owl is larger and not as white.
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; mate for life
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
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
Status: European Barn Owl populations have been declining severely in much of their range. Due to loss of nesting habitat, only about 2,000 pairs remain in the wild in Britain
Range: British Isles, western France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and countries bordering the Mediterranean
Behavior: breeding season is March through October; mating and courtship involve a great deal of chasing and screaming; nest is a scrape lined with pellets and debris; not extremely territorial; can nest within ½ mile of other pairs; 4-6 solid white eggs (occasionally as many as 12); female lays one egg every 2-3 days, but starts incubating immediately hence there may be as much as two to three weeks difference in the age of chicks in the same brood; generally 3-4 young survive; incubation period 29-45 days; young fledge at 7-10 weeks, but do not leave the area until 3-5 months old; breeding pair may lay a second clutch of eggs when the young start to leave the area; in addition to hunting from a perch they are also known to fly low over open fields in a quartering flight pattern to locate small rodents in their runs
Diet: majority of prey is small rodents , but will also hunt birds, fish, reptiles and insects
Vocalization: does not hoot; communicates with grunts, raspy hisses and drawn out hissing screams; male’s courtship call is a shrill repetitive twittering; adults returning to a nest give a low, frog-like croak; when disturbed at the roost or nest it makes hissing and rasping noises along with snapping sounds known as bill snapping
- Can catch prey by hearing alone in total darkness due to asymmetrical location of the ears which allows them to triangulate sound
- Because barn owls tend to live in damp areas, a fungus grows on their feathers, giving them a phosphorescent glow at night – hence the often used name “ghost owl”
- Common nicknames: ghost owl, monkey faced owl, white owl, night owl, Sweetheart Owl, church owl
- Throughout history, barn owls have been associated with omens, witchcraft, and death; they were used as symbols, in myths and as part of superstitious potions