Barn Owl Scientific Classification
KingdomAnimaliaPhylumChordataClassAvesOrderStrigiformesFamilyTytonidaeGenusTytoScientific NameTyto alba
Barn Owl Conservation Status
Barn Owl Locations
Barn Owl Facts
Main PreySmall mammals, Fish, BirdsFun FactBarn owls are the most well-known member family of owls known for their stark white faces and haunting callsDistinctive FeatureWhite heart-shaped face and large, dark eyesWingspan75cm – 110cm (30in – 43in)HabitatOpen plains and low-lying woodlandDietCarnivoreLifestyle
Favorite FoodSmall mammalsTypeBirdAverage Clutch Size4SloganFound everywhere around the world!
Barn Owl Physical Characteristics
Skin TypeFeathersTop Speed50 mphLifespan5 – 10 yearsWeight300g – 550g (10oz – 19.4oz)Height25cm – 45cm (9.8in – 18in)
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Barn owls are the most well-known member family of owls known for their stark white faces and haunting calls.
They are extremely widespread, one of the most widespread bird species on earth. Barn owls keep the rodent population in check wherever they live by preying on rats and mice primarily. In many cultures, they are seen as harbingers of death or symbolize the afterlife.
Incredible Barn Owl Facts!
- In England, these owls usually live in graveyards. This has given them a reputation as an omen of death.
- Barn owls are birds that swallow prey whole and then regurgitate the undigested portions as a pellet.
- The distinctive shape of their face helps them detect quiet sounds that their prey makes.
- Female owls are about 10% heavier than male owls, and they mate for life
- Captive owls can live up to 20 years.
Barn Owl Scientific Name
The scientific name of the barn owl, Tyto alba, means “white owl.” This scientific name comes from the Greek word for owl, tyto, and the Greek word for white, alba. Its original name, given by taxonomist Giovanni Antonio Scopoli was Strix alba. However, the genus strix was eventually reserved for wood owls in the other major owl family Strigidae.
Because these owls are so widespread, there are over 25 subspecies that vary in size and coloration.
Barn Owl Appearance
The barn owl is an animal that is most known for its bright white, heart-shaped face. Their heads are smooth and, unlike many other owl species, they do not have ear tufts. The owl’s eyes are large and dark. Their heart-shaped faces are framed by brown and grey feathers, as is the backside of their wings and their bodies. The wings are short, rounded, and pale beneath. Sometimes their pale white breasts are spotted. Female owls with spots are more desirable by males.
These owls weigh approximately 400-600g, with the biggest barn owl weighing in at 700g or about 1.5 pounds. Males tend to be lighter in weight and smaller in size than females. These birds can be anywhere from 32 to 40cm in size (about 12.5 to 15 inches). Their wingspan is about 100-125cm (39 to 49 inches).
Barn Owl Behavior
These owls are nocturnal birds that primarily hunt at night. Their facial disks help sound make its way to their ear-holes, where they can better detect sounds. These owls swallow their prey whole and then regurgitate pellets after most of the animal has been digested. The size of these pellets can be up to 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 compared to their bodies, helps them silently hunt at night. They prefer to hunt in open fields.
The sounds that these owls makes have been described as banshee-like. One of the most distinctive facts about the barn owl is its haunting screeches, not a hoot like most other owls.
These owls sleep in abandoned barns, which is where they get their names. They also prefer empty tree cavities and other hollow places.
Barn Owl Habitat
The many subspecies of these owls can be found all over 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 are comfortable living in cities, suburbs, and other places that put them in close contact with human beings.
Barn Owl Diet
Some of these owl species survive on an insect-based diet. These owls are smaller, island-dwelling species. Where they live, large food options tend to be scarce, so these owl subspecies have adapted to the environment.
Barn Owl Predators and Threats
These owls are a Least Concern species in terms of population decline. Their populations remain steady worldwide, but rehabilitation projects do exist in areas where barn owls are vanishing.
Barn Owl Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan
Male owls opt for a mid-flight display when they are ready to mate with a female. These maneuvers include “moth flight,” which is a maneuver in which male owls hover in midair in front of the female.
These owls can lay up to 2 nests per year and can breed year-round. They remain in one territory once they mate, and about 75% of all barn owls mate for life. These pair do “divorce” if they cannot produce enough young owlets together. When preparing to lay eggs, barn owls choose trees closer to the large, open fields where they enjoy hunting.
Females lay anywhere from 2 to 12 eggs, and the egg-laying takes place over multiple days. This spacing is so that the owlets do not hatch all at once. If food is abundant, the female will lay more eggs. Each egg incubates for about 30 days. Chicks leave the nest after the parents have cared for them for about 15 weeks.
Barn Owl Population
Because these owls are so widespread, it is hard to get an accurate account of the population. Recent counts estimate that there are anywhere between 4 million and 10 million barn owls in the world.
This species is listed as one of Least Concern by the IUCN’s Red List. Habitat decline is the biggest threat to these owls, though their populations do remain mostly stable. The biggest way to help protect barn owls is to give them places to raise their young, such as providing nesting boxes.
Barn Owl In the Zoo
Many zoos across the United States have become homes to these owls. The Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio hosts one of these owls in their 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. Odds are that wherever you are, there is likely a barn owl at a zoo or nature center nearby.
Around 970 of these owls are living in zoos worldwide. Many of these owls come to find their homes in zoos as a result of rescue operations. Dawn and Dusk, the resident owls at the 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 chick by the Hawaiian Electric Company. Zoos often are vital in raising and rehabilitating owls that might not otherwise thrive in the wild.