The barn owl has exceptionally keen hearing and eyesight, making it a very effective hunter. The ears are asymmetrical; one is level with the nostril and the other is higher, nearer the forehead. They are covered with feathered flaps that close for loud noises and open for soft sounds. They do not hoot, they make shrieks, squeaks and ticking sounds.
Barn owls exist on every continent except Antarctica. They hunt at night in open or semi-open country, quartering low over marshes, grasslands, and fields. By day, barn owls roost in hollow trees, crevices in cliffs, and in buildings such as barns, abandoned buildings, and church towers. In order to live and breed, a pair of barn owls needs to eat around 5,000 prey items a year. These are mainly field voles, wood mice, and common shrews.
They are non-territorial. Adults live in overlapping home ranges. They are usually monogamous, mating for life, although there have been studies where if a mated pair aren’t producing a lot of chicks, they will move on to find new mates.
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- The barn owl’s heart-shaped face and asymmetrical ears act as a satellite for them to pinpoint exactly where their prey is moving along on the ground in deep vegetation.
- It’s not uncommon for barn owl chicks in the nest to feed each other. This behavior is incredibly rare in birds!
- The barn owl can fly almost silently. This enables it to hear the slightest sounds made by its rodent prey hidden in deep vegetation while it’s flying up to three meters overhead.
- Because of their white, “ghost-like” appearance, or their preference to hunt in open areas that includes cemeteries, barn owls have been associated with bad omens and even death. Unfortunately, these misconceptions have caused many people to mistakenly fear barn owls and sometimes harm them.
Status In The Wild
Although barn owls are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, 90% of barn owls that had necropsies performed on them were found to
contain rat poison. While some owls die as a direct result of consuming rodenticides, most contain sub-lethal doses, but the effects of this remain