Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Key facts

Scientific name: Tyto alba
Status: Resident breeding species

Breeding birds: 4,000 pairs

Wintering birds: 12,500

Conservation status: Green

Family: Barn owls

Length: 33 – 39 cm
Wingspan: 75 – 93 cm
Weight: 290 – 460 g

What do barn owls look like?

Barn owls have pale golden upperparts with light and dark grey spots, streaks, and mottles. The rounded wings and short tail are white or light brown with downy feathers. The underparts are pale grey with pale buff on the sides of the breast. There are sometimes fine spots on the breast and flanks.

They have large heads with a white heart-shaped facial disc with a brown border and no ear tufts. They have dark eyes, a pale pink or yellow hooked bill, and pale pink or yellow legs and feet with black talons.

Males and females are similar, but the female is slightly larger and has more spotting on the back and breast.

Juveniles resemble adults.

How do barn owls breed?

Barn owls begin breeding in April, producing 1 or 2 clutches a year. They nest in undisturbed buildings, as well as a hole in a tree, or crevices in cliffs and rocks, and they will also use nest boxes. They will often use old nest sites, clearing away any debris that is not needed. They do not build a nest but the female will line the area with bits of pellets.

Barn owls lay 4-7 white, non-glossy eggs which are incubated by the female alone for 27-34 days. The male feeds her while she is on the nest. The chicks are altricial and covered in white down which is replaced with buff down after 6 days. The female cares for the chicks and feeds them by tearing prey into pieces. If food is in short supply younger chicks will often die and become food for the surviving chicks.

Barn owls fledge at 50-70 days after hatching but will return to the nest to roost for another 2 months. They reach sexual maturity at 1 year.

What do barn owls eat?

90% of a barn owl’s prey consists of woodland rodents such as voles, mice and rats, hunted over open countryside. They will also eat small birds, amphibians, and insects.

Barn owls eat their prey whole, regurgitating large black pellets of indigestible parts including teeth, fur and bones.

Barn Owl

Where can I see barn owls ?

Barn owls can be spotted in open country, alongside field edges, riverbanks and roadside verges. You can see them during the day but the best time is at dusk.

What do barn owls sound like?

Patrik Ãberg/xeno-canto

Did you know?

The barn owl’s heart-shaped face collects sound in the same way as human ears and its hearing is the most sensitive of any animal tested.

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