Bird Species of the World's Boreal Forests


Tyto alba
Barn Owl


Distinguishing Features - Male - length: 32 - 38 cm; wingspan: 107 cm; weight: 470 g. Female - length: 34 - 40 cm; wingspan: 110 cm; weight: 570 g. Colouration: upperparts are light grey with numerous fine dark lines and scattered pale spots on the feathers. There are buff markings on wings and on the back. The underparts are white with a few black spots, occasionally none. Feathering on the lower legs may be sparse. The heart-shaped facial disc is white with a brownish edge, with brown marks at the front of the eyes, which have a black iris. Its beak is off-white and the feet are yellowish-white to brownish. Males and females are similar in size and colour, females and juveniles are generally more densely spotted.


Barn Owl The Barn Owl is one of the most wide-spread of all land birds. They are found on all continents (except Antarctica) and large islands and occur over the whole of Australia, including Tasmania. They occur throughout most of Britain and Europe and across many parts of Asia, Africa, and in much of North America. In South America they are found in areas of suitable grassland, as well as on oceanic islands such as the Galalpagos.

They are found virtually in all habitats but much more abundantly in open woodland, heaths and moors than forested country. They usually roost by day in tree hollows but have also been found in caves, wells, out-buildings or thick foliage.

There are up to 35 Sub-species of Barn Owl worldwide, a few of the northern ones are:

Tyto alba alba - Britain and southwest Europe.
Tyto alba guttata - Central and Eastern Europe.
Tyto alba pratincola - North and Central America


In America and Europe, voles and field mice are the single most important food, followed by shrews, mice and rats. Barn Owls breed rapidly in response to mouse plagues. Other prey may include baby rabbits, bats, frogs, lizards, birds and insects. Prey are usually located by quartering up and down likely looking land, particularly open grassland. They also use low perches such as fence posts to seek quarry.


Barn Owls rely greatly on their silent flight and extremely acute hearing to locate prey. The sound of the Barn Owls wings are muffled by a velvety pile on the feather surface. In addition, the leading edges of the wing feathers have a fringe or fine comb which deadens the sound of the wing beats.

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