Rutland Falconry and Owl Centre
Rutland Falconry & Owl Centre
Barn Owl

A large owl with a prominent white, heart-shaped
facial disc, dark eyes, and no ear tufts. The legs
are long and unfeathered. The plumage is
sandy brown streaked with white and blue with
pale or white underparts.

Back to Species page

Nearly worldwide in distribution, the barn owl can be found in Australia, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, as well as North and South America. It is most common between latitudes 40N and 40S of the equator.

A grassland species, the barn owl relies on open fields for hunting. As agriculture opened up the eastern forest in the 1800s, the barn owl's range expanded. Recent plowing and urbanization of grasslands has reduced the habitat available to barn owls (at least in the Midwest) and has caused a subsequent reduction of barn owl numbers in those areas.

A cavity nester, the barn owl takes readily to human-made structures, and they are well-known in Europe for using buildings and church steeples as nest sites. This owl will also use properly placed nest boxes. Barn owls can be prolific breeders, hatching two broods in one year. In Europe, the typical number of young is three to six, but broods of up to 18 young have been reported.

A very nocturnal species, the barn owl hunts over fields and grasslands, preying primarily on small microtine rodents, and rats. Its dependence on this food source makes it very susceptible to habitat loss.