NatureMapping Animal Facts

Barn Owl

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
Also know as Common Barn Owl
Species Code: TYAL

distribution map

Description: The Barn Owl is a medium-sized raptor, a nocturnal bird of prey like other owls. Raptors have strong grasping talons for killing prey, and a hooked upper beak for tearing meat.

The Barn Owl has a white heart-shaped face and white chest with small brown spots. The back is tawny, marked with black and white spots. Barn Owl have a long wingspan and are silent in flight.

The male and female display similar plumage, but females are larger, darker, and more spotted than males. They are 32-40 cm (13-16 in) tall, which is smaller than the size of a Red-tailed Hawk. The wingspan is 100-125 cm (39-49 in) - about the armspan of a child.

owl photo by Tim Knight

Call: Call is a drawn-out, hissing scream.

Listen to calls of this species »

Range / Habitat: The Barn Owl is one of the most widely distributed birds in the world, found on all continents except Antarctica. The Barn Owl occupies a wide range of habitats and altitudes, including deserts, grasslands, forests, agricultural fields and urban areas.

This species is common in most habitats throughout the state. They are found around agricultural areas or basalt cliffs, as well as forest openings, wetlands, and other open spaces. In winter, they roost in dense conifers or barns.

Click the range map to learn more about the distribution of Barn Owls in Washington.

Diet: Barn Owls eat small mammals, especially rodents. They also eat birds, reptiles, and insects.

owl photo by Tim Knight

Nesting: Barn Owls build nests in hollow trees, cliff cavities, in buildings, and nest boxes.

They do not build a true nest, but much of the debris around the nest, including pellets, is formed into a depression. The female lays 2-11 eggs (usually about 5), and incubates them for 29-34 days.

The young start to fly at about 60 days. They return to the nest site at night for a few weeks after their first flight.

Behavior: The Barn Owl has excellent low-light vision, and can easily find prey at night by sight. Its ability to locate prey by sound alone is the best of any animal that has ever been tested. Hunts at night, and can catch mice in complete darkness.

Did you know?

  • Barn Owl is silent in flight due to soft fringe-edged feathers that don't "swoosh" as they move.
  • A Barn Owl is about the size of a small cat, but only weighs a pound.
  • The Barn Owl has excellent vision and hearing for capturing prey at night.

owl photo by Tim Knight

More information:
All About Birds: Barn Owl
BirdWeb: Barn Owl
Barn Owl feathers

Animal silhouettes available to purchase »

Photos: Tim Knight

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