Barn Owl: Medium-sized owl with glaring white, heart-shaped facial disk, no ear tufts, and long legs. Upperparts are orange-brown with fine white spots and dark bars. Underparts are white with small black spots. Feeds primarily on small mammals, also takes small birds. Slow, silent mothlike flight.
Range and Habitat
Barn Owl: Resident throughout much of the UK and Ireland. Found many habitats, but prefers warm climates with mild winters. Nearby open grassland is essential; rarely found in deep forests or mountains. Found near forest edges, farmland, and coastal marshes. Occasional immigration from the continent.
Barn Owl (Tytonidae)
The barn owls and the true owls are the two families in a taxonomic order of mostly nocturnal birds, the STRIGIFORMES (pronounced strih-jih-FOR-meez).
The family of the barn owls, the Tytonidae (pronounced tie-TON-uh-dee), includes eighteen species in three genera found on all continents except for Antarctica (IOC World Bird List, version 2.3).
There is one species of Tytonidae in one genus in Europe. This is the familiar Barn Owl.
The Barn Owl is known for its amazing ability at catching rats, and occasionally breeding in human made structures. Its excellent hearing and eyesight enable it to catch prey in very dark conditions.
The Barn Owl is a large bird with a medium length tail and long, broad wings. It has a distinctive, large, rounded head with feathers that form a prominent facial disk, and a sharp, hooked bill. The Barn Owl, along with other members of the Tytonidae, also has long, featherless legs and sharp talons on long toes.
The Barn Owl has white plumage on the underparts and light-coloured tan plumage on the upperparts. It also has dark barring on the wings and tail, and light speckling on the underparts, with some white spotting on the upperparts. The eyes are dark, and the legs grey.
The Barn Owl occurs throughout Europe except for high mountain regions and in Scandinavia. It is a non-forest species that hunts in grasslands and other open habitats, including towns and cities that can provide a healthy population of rats.
The Barn Owl migrates short distances from the northern part of its range.
Members of this family form pairs during the breeding season but are solitary at other times of the year and highly nocturnal. They forage by watching and listening for prey from a perch or while quartering over the ground. Upon locating a rodent or occasional small bird, the Barn Owl dives to the ground to grasp it with its talons and kills it with a bite to the back of the skull. It then flies to a roost to eat its catch.
The Barn Owl is a species of conservation concern in Europe. Although it is not globally threatened, this owl species has declined in many areas. The reasons for the large population decrease of the Barn Owl in the United Kingdom and some other regions are not fully understood but may be related to use of pesticides for rodent control and loss of habitat.
The Barn Owl (along with other Tytonidae species) has some of the most acute hearing of any bird species. In addition to its facial disk, its ears are asymmetrically placed to aid in locating the source of a sound, and it has feathered ear flaps to protect the ears from loud noises.