Barn Owl Facts and Information

The Barn Owl (Tyto alba) is one of the widespread species of birds, inhabiting every continent on earth with the exception of Antarctica. In the U.S., they are considered partially migratory, meaning only some of the species located at higher latitudes will migrate to lower latitudes during the winter. Research has shown that large populations of Barn Owls winter in throughout the southeastern states.

Barn Owl

Physical Characteristics of The Barn Owl

The Barn Owl is a beautiful medium-large owl with an average wingspan of approximately 30 to 40 inches. The size of the owl varies depending on the subspecies, as some are types are larger than others.

In terms of physical appearance, the Barn Owl is quite unique and can be identified fairly easily. Their face has a unique heart-shape to it which is nearly completely white with the exception of some darker colored hair around the eyes and neck. Typically, the belly and underside of a Barn Owl is also white with the top of their head and back having a darker color (usually tan to golden) with black speckles throughout.

Diet and Eating Habits

The Barn Owl is a carnivorous predator who flies low at night in search of prey to feed on. Most feed on a variety of rodents such as field mice, voles, gophers, and chipmunks. If the barn owl is in close proximity to a large population of rodents, it will consume on average one or more per night.

While rodents may be the main source of food for most Barn Owls, they do hunt and consume other prey, including birds (some as large as the barn owl itself), grasshoppers, frogs, lizards, termites, and a variety of other insects and animals.

The Barn Owl is an efficient predator with the ability to see at night and a keen sense of hearing. Because it hunts at night, it must use these senses to pinpoint where the prey is and swoop down for the snatch with their talons. Once the prey is caught, most Barn Owls will use their beak to tear chunks of flesh of to swallow. Approximately 20 hours after consuming their prey, the Barn Owl will regurgitate the indigestible remains into the form of a pellet. The contents of an average owl pellet will consist of hair, fur, bones, claws, beaks, and insect shells.

Mating and Reproduction

Barn Owls inhabiting temperate regions will usually mate during early spring. However, Barn Owls have no defined breeding schedule and may search for a partner any time prey is abundant.

Sexual maturity usually occurs around one year of age. When mating occurs, they will find a nesting area in a natural or man-made structures. Some common nesting areas include the insides of trees, caverns, chimneys, barns, shacks, and caves.

Unlike many other birds, Barn Owls don't construct a nest. Instead, the female will lay her eggs (usually around 5 to 7) in a dark area surrounded by regurgitated owl pellets. After about a month of incubation, the eggs will begin to hatch in the order they were laid.

Interesting Facts About Barn Owls

  • Farmers often welcome this species of owl for their use in lowering the crop-eating rodent populations.
  • There are over 30 notable subspecies of Barn Owls living throughout the world, differing in size and appearance.
  • Barn Owls are monogamous, meaning they will mate with only one partner during their entire life.
  • One side of the Barn Owls ears are higher than the other. This allows them to use one ear to listen to the ground and the other to the sky as they fly overhead.
  • There are over a dozen different names for the Barn Owl, including Common Barn Owl, Silver Owl, White Owl, Night Owl, Rat Owl, Ghost Owl, Barnyard Owl, Demon Owl, Ghost Owl, and Golden Owl.
  • Some rural areas believed the Barn Owl to a sign of evil, which is why it was given certain names like Demon Owl.
  • Their average lifespan is usually only 1 to 2 years.

Video of Barn Owl Pellets


Barn Owls - UFL