Barn Owl (Tyto alba)


Class: Aves
Order: Strigiformes
Family:    Tytonidae
Size:    Length: 12 to 16 inches (30 to 41 cm)
Weight: 16 to 21 ounces (450 to 600 grams)
Diet: Mice, voles, shrews, rats, sparrows, and bats
Distribution: Every continent except Antarctica
Young:  4 to 7 eggs, once or twice per year
Animal Predators:  Great horned owls
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Owlet  Group:  Parliament
Lifespan: 1 to 2 years



·       The barn owl is the most accurate bird at locating prey by sound.

·       Unlike other owls, barn owls have dark eyes rather than yellow ones.

·       Other names for the barn owl are golden owl, white owl and monkey-faced owl.

·       Barn owls consume twice as much food for their weight as other owls.



Barn owls have a unique, heart-shaped face. Their back and wings are rusty-brown, and their undersides are white to cinnamon coloured, with females being slightly darker in colour than males. The beak is an off-white colour and they have yellow to brown feet. Their ears are not visible, but they have excellent hearing, which is essential because they hunt only at night, beginning one hour after sunset. Their eyes are in a fixed position facing forward and do not move within the sockets, so barn owls need to turn their entire head to see what is happening to the side or back.



Barn owls are found on every continent except Antarctica. They inhabit all of South America and the southern portion of North America. In Canada, the only place barn owls can be found is in the Greater Vancouver area and Fraser Valley. In Europe, they can be found in the southwest and also throughout Australia as well as Africa, with the exception of the Sahara region. They are susceptible to cold weather, and barn owls living in areas where the winters are chilly, will migrate. They prefer to live in open agricultural areas and fields bordered with woods, but they do not inhabit dense forests. Barn owls have been introduced to some Pacific islands for rodent control, as well as in Malaysia, where a family of barn owls (a male, female and several offspring) kills an average of 1,300 rats per year. True to their name, barn owls often live in barns, as well as church belfries, tree cavities or cliff crevices. 


Feeding Habits

Barn owls eat one-and-a-half times their weight in rodents each day, making them valuable assets for farmers. In fact, they are more effective at controlling rodent populations than cats, traps or poison. After locating prey using both their highly specialized low-light vision and exceptional hearing, barn owls swoop down, grabbing the victim with their talons. The prey is cannot hear the owl approaching because the sound of the owl’s movement is muffled by its downy feathers. Unlike most other owls, barn owls do not hoot, but instead make a loud hissing sound.



Barn owls mate for life. The male woos the female by bringing her food. He then chases her while screeching mating calls in her direction. She responds with similar calls. The female lays four to seven white eggs in a dark spot. The couple does not build a nest, but they may use an abandoned one. The female sits on the eggs while the male brings her food. In about a month, the eggs begin to hatch. The newborns, or owlets, emerge naked, blind and helpless. Within a few days they are covered in white down. The adults are kept busy finding and bringing food to their offspring, who are constantly hungry. In two months, the owlets grow adult plumage and begin learning to fly and hunt. A young owl eats an average of 12 mice per night.



Unless breeding, barn owls live solitary lives or they live in pairs. Because barn owls are efficient hunters they spend most of their time relaxing.  When barn owls face intruders they spread their wings and move their head from side to side, while hissing. 



Although not listed with the IUCN, barn owls have legal protection in several states of the U.S. due to their declining population. This decline is due to the decrease in food supply with urban development, the replacement of wooden barns with steel barns, which are unsuitable habitats for barn owls, and the negative effects of pesticide consumption on reproduction. 



Barn Owl Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US