Barn Owls, beautiful creatures

By: Mrs. Hubbard

Introduction

Ghostly pale and strictly nocturnal, Barn Owls are silent predators of the night world. You can find them by listening for their eerie, raspy calls, quite unlike the hoots of other owls. Despite a worldwide distribution, Barn Owls are declining in parts of their range due to habitat loss.

General Information

These medium-sized owls have long, rounded wings and short tails, which combine with a buoyant, loping flight to give them a distinctive flight style. The legs are long and the head is smoothly rounded, without ear tufts. Barn Owls are pale overall with dark eyes. They have a mix of buff and gray on the head, back, and upperwings, and are white on the face, body, and underwings. When seen at night they can appear all white.

Habitat and Behavior

Barn Owls nest and roost in cavities, abandoned barns and other buildings, and dense trees. At night, Barn Owls hunt by flying low, back and forth over open habitats, searching for small rodents primarily by sound. Barn Owls require large areas of open land over which to hunt. This can either be marsh, grasslands, or mixed agricultural fields. For nesting and roosting, they prefer quiet cavities, either in trees or man-made structures such as barns or silos.

Endangerment

The exact reason for the decline of barn owls is unknown, but we do know that the availability of cavities for nesting appears to be a limiting factor. Barn owls are secondary cavity nesters. They don’t make their own cavity but use existing natural or man-made cavities. They prefer nest sites surrounded by suitable hunting grounds with unobstructed entrances. Barn owls nest in buildings and other man-made structures including nest boxes. Many nesting sites have been lost in trees and in buildings. Nest-box programs are an effective management option to grow the number of barn owls in areas where nest sites are limited.