Barn Owl (Tyto Alba)

Barn OwlThe Barn Owl is one of the most common British owls. It can be found throughout the UK although it is far less common in the colder more mountainous areas such as Northern Scotland.  Favoured habitat is farmland, woods and rural villages hence the name Barn Owl, especially since a breeding pair will return to the same nesting sites year on year, often in old Barns, churches and ruined buildings. It is strictly nocturnal (unless food is scarce) as it is poorly camouflaged for day time hunting with sandy brown feathers with grey and white patterning and striking white breast and under feathers; even in flight it appears totally white with its long wings giving it a ghostly graceful appearance.  Its large white disk face and eerie screech call have given rise to folklore connecting the bird to ghosts and it is sometimes called a Screech Owl. An Adult bird is about 34cm long (smaller than the similar Tawny Owl) and will feed on small rodents, small birds and even the occasional fish. The nest is little more than a ledge with a few old feathers and pellets.

Barn OwlThe Barn owl has excellent night vision but this relies on some ambient light such as some moonlight or street lights, but the Barn Owl can also hunt in complete darkness using its fantastic hearing. The owl’s ears are at slightly different levels on its head allowing it to track prey by the differences in the sound heard by each ear, this ability is unusual even for owls and while hunting like this the owl remains totally silent on the attack run. Barn Owls can be found on most continents including Africa and South America; in the UK although fairly common their numbers are on the decline possibly due to the reducing number of suitable buildings to use as nesting sites. The female lays up to seven white eggs in early spring, hatching just over a month later, with the chicks flying around eight weeks later, in good years two broods will be raised.

See also Barn Own Picture Gallery