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owl Barn Owls

Identify It >   Birds Section >   Owls Section >   Barn Owls >


Scientific name:  Tyto alba

Size:  Approx 32 to 34cm

Distribution:  Found in most parts of the UK except the north of Scotland

Months seen:  All year round

Habitat:  Farmland.  Hunts along the edges of fields

Food:  Mostly voles and mice

Special features:  Barn owls can be easily recognised by their light coloured plumage, which is white on the front, and orange-brown on the back, speckled with some ash grey markings.  They have a heart shaped disc of feathers around the face.

Barn owls are nocturnal hunters, and when you see one flying at night it appears to be all white.  This appearance coupled with its eerie screeching call may account for many ghost stories, as they are sometimes seen hunting for mice in graveyards.

The Barn Owl has such sensitive hearing it is able to exactly locate a field mouse rustling through straw in a pitch dark barn.  It can do this because its ears are located at different positions on the sides of its head.  One is at the height of its forehead, and the other is level with its nostril.

Once a prey item is located the owl silently drops down onto it and grabs it with it's powerful, sharp talons.

Barn Owls do not build nests themselves.  Instead they rely on a variety of nesting sites for laying their eggs, such as tree cavities, rock ledges, and ledges in barns.  Barn Owls have also been known to nest in burrows in riverbanks.

The Romans were very superstitious of barn owls and associated them with death.  They believed that if a barn owl landed on the roof of a house, someone inside was going to die!

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