Barn Owl: This medium-sized owl has a glaring white, heart-shaped facial disk, no ear tufts and long legs. The upperparts are orange-brown with fine white spots and dark bars, and the underparts are white with small black spots. It feeds primarily on small mammals and also takes small birds. It has a slow, silent moth-like flight. Sexes are similar, but females are darker in color than the males.
Range and Habitat
Barn Owl: Found in southern British Columbia and much of the U.S., with the exception of many northern states Occurs on every continent except Antarctica. Found in a vast range of habitats, from rural to urban, but prefers warm climates with mild winters. Nearby open grassland is essential; rarely found in deep forests or mountains.
Barn Owls and Typical Owls (Tytonidae and Strigidae)
The barn owls and the true owls are the two families in a taxonomic order of mostly nocturnal birds, the STRIGIFORMES (pronounced strih-jih-FOR-meez).
The family of the barn owls, the Tytonidae (pronounced tie-TON-uh-dee), includes eighteen species in three genera found on all continents except for Antarctica.
There are two species of Tytonidae in one genus in North America. These are the Barn Owl, and the Ashy-faced Owl of the Caribbean.
The Barn Owl is known for its amazing ability in catching mice and rats, and for its willingness to nest and breeding in human made structures. Its excellent hearing and eyesight enable it to catch prey in very dark conditions.
The Barn Owl is a large bird with a medium length tail and long, broad wings. It has a distinctive, large, rounded head with feathers that form a prominent facial disk, and a sharp, hooked bill. The Barn Owl, along with other members of the Tytonidae, also has long, featherless legs, and sharp talons on long toes.
The Barn Owl has white plumage on the underparts and light-colored tan plumage on the upperparts. It also has dark barring on the wings and tail, and light speckling on the underparts, with some white spotting on the upperparts. The eyes are dark, and the legs gray.
In North America, the Barn Owl occurs across the United States and parts of southern Canada. Better adapted to milder climates, it is a rare bird in most areas at the northern edge of its range. The Barn Owl is a non-forest species that hunts in grasslands and other open habitats, including towns and cities that can provide healthy population of rats.
The Barn Owl migrates short distances from the northern part of its range.
Members of this family form pairs during the breeding season but are solitary at other times of the year and highly nocturnal. They forage by watching and listening for prey from a perch or while quartering over the ground. Upon locating a rodent or occasional small bird, the Barn Owl dives to the ground to grasp it with its talons and kill it with a bite to the back of the neck. It then flies to a roost to eat the prey item.
The Barn Owl is not threatened and is a common bird in much of its cosmopolitan range.
The Barn Owl (along with other Tytonidae species) has some of the most acute hearing of any bird species. In addition to its facial disk, its ears are asymmetrically placed to aid in locating the source of a sound by triangulation, and it has feathered ear flaps to protect the ears from loud noises.