Common Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
The Common Barn Owl (Tyto alba) is one of two groups of owls. It belongs to the barn owl family Tytonidae and is a fairly common sight in rural areas across the globe. The Barn Owl may be found in any country except Antartica, although it may vary in appearance in certain instances such as the Tyto alba alba of western Europe which has a pure white underbelly or the Tyto alba guttata of central Europe which has an orange underbelly. These two variations are classified as subspecies and most Barn Owls have a mixture of grey and ochre on their underparts.
Barn Owls are generally pale in appearance and have long wings and fairly long legs. Their bodies measure between 33-39 cm in length and they have an average wingspan of 80-95 cm. They prefer open country, such as farmland or the edges of woods where they can easily spot their prey from the air. They generally hunt in the early twilight or at night and are fairly sedentary for the rest of the time. They often feed on voles, frogs, rats, shrews, moles, mice and insects. As they feed on so many pests, they are considered to be economically valuable birds and their presence is generally welcomed by farmers who may set up nesting sites for the birds to entice them to nest on the property. The Barn Owl is also known by several other names such as the ‘church owl’, ‘golden owl’, ‘stone owl’ and ‘rat owl’.
This beautiful, heart-faced bird has few natural predators, although they have been known to be preyed upon by bigger owls on occasion. Barn Owls themselves will prey on smaller birds if other food is scarce. They can emit a notable shrill scream which can be piercing at close range. They also hiss if nervous but do not make the ‘tu-whit to-whoo’ sound commonly associated with owls. If a Barn Owl is captured or cornered, it will flip itself on its back and use it’s sharply-taloned feet in defence. These incredible birds are also known for their soundless flight and excellent vision – especially at night.