Barn Owl


Order: Strigiformes
Family: Tytonidae
Genus: Tyto
Species: alba

BI Barn Owl laf50.jpg (7064 bytes)

R. Bruce Horsfall

La. strix, strigis owl
La. forma form, shape,
Gr. tuto owl
La. albus white
Eighteen inches long, up to four foot wing span.   Upperparts a mixture of amber and mottled gray finely speckled with black and white. Heart-shaped facial disks; white underparts. White mottled with black, sometimes barred tail. Small black eyes. Long wings and long feathered legs.

Resident of southern portions of the continent from British Columbia and Ontario to Mexico.  In the East as far north as Massachusetts. Barn owls or their cousins with slight changes in appearance can be found through out most parts of the world in temperate and tropical regions.   Barn Owls are actually more widespread than the reported sightings in the survey map. 


      USGS Barn Owl Map

While not abundant in the North, Barn Owl populations are declining further due to loss of habitat, nesting sites and prey species. 

Accumulates loosely piled bones in tree hollows, deserted buildings and barns, boat wrecks on the coast, church towers, holes in banks, even holes in the open prairies. Sometimes claims old crows' nests.

A pair of Barn Owls lived for years on one of the towers of the Smithsonian Institution.

Barn Owls, W. L. Finley

W.L. Finley

Lays five to eleven white eggs often found at varying stages of incubation. About a month of incubation and young leave the nest after about another two months.  Eats mice, rats and other mammals, insects, frogs, some birds, rarely poultry.

In Florida, farmers mount Barn Owl nest boxes as rats cause nearly $30 million damage every year to sugar cane crops. One pair of Barn Owls and their offspring may catch and consume as many as 3,000 rats per year.

Conceals itself so well during the day and so silent at night, that neighbors may be totally unaware of its presence. When they are disturbed in their nest they click their bills and hiss. Occasionally a startling scream and quivering cry.

Considered unlucky in the folklore and superstitions of many cultures, abhorred by the Romans. The Barn Owl represented the letter "M" in Egyptian hieroglyphs and mummified remains have been discovered.

Barn Owl in 3,300 Year Old Egyptian Relief

Egyptian Relief, 1,300 BC

The Barn Owl nest box is unusual. One design has a 10" by 18" floor, is 16" tall, and has a 6" by 6" opening near the floor. It should be mounted at least 12' high in a barn, tree, or tower.  There are many varied designs which one can find through an internet search.




bibarnowllafboa.jpg (18648 bytes)

Louis Agassiz Fuertes



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