Barn Owl

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Common Name: Common Barn Owl
Scientific Name: Tyto alba

Size: 13 ½ - 15 ½ inches (34-40 cm); Wingspan: 43 inches (110 cm)

Habitat: Worldwide; found on all continents (except Antarctica) and large islands and occur over the whole of Australia, including Tasmania. They occur throughout most of Britain and Europe and across many parts of Asia, Africa, and in much of North America. In South America they are found in areas of suitable grassland, as well as on oceanic islands such as the Galapagos. They were introduced to Hawaii in 1958. Preferred habitats include open woodland, fields and moors.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 5,000,000+. Owls are short-lived birds. Most die in their first year of life, with the average life expectancy being 1 to 2 years in the wild. Captive owls live up to 25 years.

Diet: Primarily voles, pocket gophers, shrews, mice and rats. Other prey may include baby rabbits, bats, frogs, lizards, birds and insects. Barn Owls are usually nocturnal, being most active at dusk and dawn. Prey are usually located by quartering up and down likely looking land - particularly open grassland. They also use low perches such as fence posts to seek quarry.

Nesting: Females are slightly larger than males. The facial disc is white with a brown edge, and with a brownish wash between the lower edge of the eyes and the base of the whitish-pink bill. Eyes are brownish-black. The crown and upper parts are yellowish-brown to orange-buff, covered partly by a pale ashy-gray veil marked with scattered white spots surrounded by black. The tail is similar, with a few darker bars and with white dots near the tips of the feathers. The under parts are whitish or pure white with a few small, dark drop-shaped spots (often more on females). Legs are feathered white nearly to the base of the mostly bare toes, which are pale gray-brown and dirty yellow underneath. Claws are brownish-black.

Barn Owls will breed any time during the year, depending on food supply. In a good year, a pair may breed twice. Rodent plagues cause Barn Owl numbers to increase dramatically. During courting, males may circle near the nest tree, giving short screeches and chattering calls. The majority of Barn Owls nest in tree hollows up to 20 m high. They will also nest in old buildings, caves and well shafts. 3 to 6 eggs are laid (occasionally up to 12) at 2 day intervals. The eggs are 38 to 46mm (1.5-1.8") long and 30 to 35mm (1.2-1.4") wide and will be incubated for 30 to 34 days. Chicks are covered in white down and brooded for about 2 weeks, and are fledged in 50 to 55 days. After this, they will remain in the vicinity for a week or so to learn hunting skills and then rapidly disperse from the nest area. Young birds are able to breed at about 10 months.

Cool Facts: Although widely known beforehand, it was in 1769 when the Barn Owl was first officially described by Giovanni Scopoli, an Italian naturalist. Their name derives from their use of barn lofts and church steeples as nesting sites. Other common names include: Monkey-faced Owl, Ghost Owl, Church Owl, Death Owl, Hissing Owl, Hobgoblin or Hobby Owl, Golden Owl, Silver Owl, White Owl, Night Owl, Rat Owl, Scritch Owl, Screech Owl, Straw Owl, Barnyard Owl and Delicate Owl.

Found in Songbird ReMix Owls of the World Volume 1

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