They are widespread, one of the most widespread bird species on earth. Barn owls keep the rodent population at bay wherever they live, mainly by hunting rats and mice. In many cultures, they are seen as messengers of death or symbolize the afterlife.
- In England, these owls usually live in cemeteries. This has given them a reputation for being a harbinger of death.
- These owls swallow their prey whole and then regurgitate the undigested portions into pellets.
- The distinctive shape of their face helps them detect silent sounds made by prey.
- Female owls are about 10% heavier than male owls.
- Owls in captivity can live up to 20 years.
Barn Owl Appearance
This owl species is best known for its heart-shaped bright white face. Their heads are smooth, and unlike many other owl species, they don’t have ear tufts. The owl’s eyes are large and dark. Their heart-shaped faces are framed by brown and gray feathers, as are the backs of their wings and bodies. The wings are short, rounded, and pale underneath. Sometimes their breasts are stained with pale white. Female spotted owls are more desirable for males.
These owls weigh around 400-600g and the largest barn owl weighs 700g or around 1.5lbs. Males tend to be lighter and smaller than females. These birds can range in size from 32 to 40 cm (about 12.5 to 15 inches). Its wingspan is approximately 100-125 cm (39 to 49 inches).
Barn Owl Behavior
These owls are nocturnal birds that hunt mainly at night. Facial discs help sound reach the ears, where they can better detect sounds. These owls swallow their prey whole and then regurgitate the granules after most of the animal has been digested. The size of these grains can be as large as 1.5 inches, and scientists use them to learn many facts about what the barn owl eats.
Their eyes are twice as sensitive as the human eye. This feature, as well as their large wingspan relative to the body, helps them hunt silently at night. They prefer to hunt in the open field.
The sounds these owls make have been described as a banshee. One of the most distinguishing facts about the Barn Owl is its eerie screeching, not a cry like most other owls.
These owls sleep in abandoned barns, from which they take their names. They also prefer hollow tree holes and other hollow places.
The numerous subspecies of these owls can be found around the world in various habitats. They are an adaptable species that can live in most environments, from desert to lush farmland.
Because these owls nest in barns and other abandoned buildings, they live at ease in cities, suburbs, and other places that put them in close contact with humans.
Barn Owl Diet
These owls are raptors and mainly target rats and mice. Sometimes, during the dissection of the granules, scientists have occasionally encountered frogs, smaller bird species, or even fish.
Some of these owl species survive on an insect-based diet. These owls are smaller species that live on the islands. Where they live, great food options tend to be in short supply, which is why these owl subspecies have adapted to the environment.
Predators and Threats
Possums, eagles, and raccoons feed on owls and owl eggs. Other owl species, such as the eagle owl and the eagle owl, also prey on their owl cousins.
These owls are a species of lesser concern in terms of population decline. Their populations are stable around the world, but there are rehabilitation projects in areas where Barn Owls are disappearing.
Barn Owl Reproduction
Male owls opt for a mid-flight display when they are ready to mate with a female. These maneuvers include the “flight of the moth” which is a maneuver in which male owls float in the air in front of the female.
These owls can lay up to 2 nests per year and can reproduce throughout the year. They remain in a territory once they mate and about 75% of all barn owls mate for life. This couple “divorces” if they can’t produce enough flirtatious together. When preparing to lay their eggs, barn owls choose the trees closest to large open fields where they love to hunt.
Females lay 2 to 12 eggs and spawning takes place over several days. This distance is so that the owls don’t hatch all at once. If the food is abundant, the female will lay more eggs. Each egg is incubated for about 30 days. The chicks leave the nest after the parents have taken care of them for about 15 weeks.
Because these owls are so widespread, it is difficult to get an accurate description of the population. Recent counts estimate that there are between 4 and 10 million owls in the world.
This species is listed as one of the least concern on the IUCN Red List. Habitat decline is the biggest threat to these owls, although their populations remain mostly stable. The best way to help protect Barn Owls is to give them places to raise their young, such as providing them with nests.
Barn Owl In the Zoo
Many zoos in the United States have become home to these owls. The Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio is home to one of these owls in its Wings of the World exhibit. Many other zoos, including the Cosley Zoo in Indiana, the Pittsburgh Zoo in Pennsylvania, and the San Francisco Zoo in California. Most likely, wherever you are, there is probably a Barn Owl at a nearby zoo or nature center.
About 970 of these owls live in zoos around the world. Many of these owls come to find their homes in zoos as a result of rescue operations. Dawn and Dusk, the resident owls at Belfast Zoo found their permanent homes after being rescued.
Another barn owl, Bubo-no-no, found a forever home at the Honolulu Zoo after being rescued as a calf by the Hawaiian Electric Company. Zoos are often vital for breeding and rehabilitating owls that would otherwise not thrive in the wild.