Long before this worldwide species became the “barn” owl, it nested and took shelter in hollow trees, caves, and burrows. Often it still does. But man’s structures furnish it with ideal cover, and the bird can be found roosting or nesting in belfries, towers, attics, and abandoned mine shafts as well as barns and silos.
Distribution & Habitat
It is generally accepted that the barn owl is the most widespread land bird in the world. It is found in most tropical zones and in temperate zones where the winter temperature does not fall too low. Because of its low resistance to cold, it avoids regions like Siberia, northern Russia, Scandinavia, and Canada. Recently, a barn owl was found in Antarctica, which used to be the only continent without any owls.
Its call given in flight is a loud drawn-out hissing scream with a marked gargling or tremulous effect of about two seconds duration. Not all calls are clear and tremulous. Sometimes perched birds give hoarse non-tremulous versions. Other calls are chirrups, twitters, squeaks, and snores.
The Barn Owl is a nocturnal hunter. The eyes of the barn owl are considerably smaller than those of most owls. However, its vision is well adapted for seeing in the dark. Experiments have shown that it requires its ears only, and not its eyes, to locate and catch its small-mammal prey, and that owls can hunt in almost complete darkness. Barn owls hunt mostly at night and spend more time on the wing than do most owls, flying less than 10 feet above the ground. They consume twice as much food for their weight compared to other owls.
Because of their high first-year mortality and short life span, barn owls have evolved a remarkable reproductive capacity and can quickly colonize an area if suitable habitat and food are available. These owls breed when they are only one year old and may lay clutches of as many as 14 eggs.
Some can breed more than once in a breeding season. Unlike other bird species that use songbird boxes, barn owls have asynchronous hatching, with the first egg hatching 2 weeks before the last egg. Therefore the nestlings vary greatly in size. If disturbed, the female may abandon the nest.
- D.S Bunn, A.B Warburton, R.D.S Wilson – The Barn Owl
- Emily Heaton, Rachael Long, Chuck Ingels, Tom Hoffman – Songbird, Bat And Owl Boxes: Vineyard Management With An Eye Toward Wildlife
- Heimo Mikkola – Owls Of The World – A Photographic Guide: Second Edition