Barn Owl

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Name: Barn Owl
Scientific Name: Tyto alba
Range: All four of the Southwestern deserts and Southern California. The barn owl occurs in great numbers in Southern California.
Habitat: Hunts in areas rich in rodents, along desert washes and canyons, where trees for perching are available. Usually, it hides under trees, abandoned burrows and buildings, and old farm machinery left in fields.
Status: Endangered in Illinois.
Diet in the Wild:  Mice, gophers, and small birds.
Diet in the Zoo: Carnivore Diet.
Mortality: Most barn owls die in their first year of life, with the average life expectancy being 1 to 2 years. In North America the oldest known Barn Owl in the wild lived to be 11 years, 6 months.

Physical Description:
  • Length: Female: 34-40cm (13˝-15˝") Male: 32-38cm (12˝-15")
  • Weight: Female:570g (20oz) Male: Weight 470g (15˝oz)
  • Wingspan: Female: Wingspan 110cm (43") Male: 107cm (42")
  • The upperparts of a barn owl are light grey with numerous fine, dark lines and scattered, pale spots on the feathers. There are buff markings on wings and on the back. The underparts are white with a few black spots, occasionally none. Feathering on the lower legs may be sparse. The heart-shaped facial disc is white with a brownish edge, with brown marks at the front of the eyes, which have a black iris. Its beak is off-white and the feet are yellowish-white to brownish. Males and females are similar in size and color; females and juveniles are generally more densely spotted.


General information:

Adult Barn Owls often live in pairs, although some do not roost together all year round. By March pairs are usually roosting together, at or near the site where they intend to breed. They engage in courtship behaviour, chasing and screeching around the breeding site, the male often presenting food items to his mate. This helps to ensure that the female is in tip-top condition. All being well, the annual cycle begins again in April or May.


Special anatomical, physiological or behavioral adaptations:

Flight feathers are serrated at their tips, muffling the flapping sound of the wings during flight...Sharp talons for seizing and holding prey...Hooked beak for tearing meat.

Additional Information about Barn Owls:

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.

These pale, nearly worldwide, birds are closely associated with man through their traditional use in the Old World of barn lofts and church steeples as nesting sites. Although widely known beforehand, it was in 1769 when the Barn Owl was first officially described by Giovanni Scopoli, an Italian naturalist. The species name "alba" also refers to the colour white. Other names for the Barn Owl have included Monkey-faced 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, and Delicate Owl. Barn Owl also call as "Ghost Owl" because it usually hides in the dark. 

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Page author:
Van Nguyen
Van Nguyen

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