16 Fun Barn Owl Facts for Kids with Pictures

Barn owls are a fascinating species of bird known scientifically as Tyto alba. Their heart-shaped face is one of their most distinctive features, quickly setting them apart from other owls. You can find these birds worldwide and quickly recognize them due to their unique appearance.

Key Takeaways about Barn Owls (Birds of Prey)

  • Barn owls are identifiable by their heart-shaped face and presence around the world.
  • Adapted to various habitats, they play a significant role as natural pest controllers.
  • Conservation of barn owls is vital as they face environmental challenges and habitat loss.

Cool Barn Owl Facts 

Fun Barn Owl Facts

Here are 12 fun barn owl facts you can rattle off to your friends! Impress everyone with your knowledge about these mysterious and fascinating night hunters. We have an entire article on general owl fun facts!

A Barn Owl Can See in the Dark

A Barn Owl Can See in the Dark

The Barn Owl possesses exceptional night vision, effortlessly spotting prey in minimal light conditions. This remarkable ability is complemented by its disproportionately large eyes relative to its body mass, enhancing its visual acuity in the dark. These barn owls can see at night and use this to their advantage!

Barn Owls Have a White Heart-Shaped Face

Barn Owls Have a White Heart-Shaped Face

Barn owls are notable for their heart-shaped face, which is a facial disc of feathers that helps with their hearing. Their face is usually white, helping them blend into their surroundings while they hunt at night.

A Barn Owl has Long Legs (to Maneuver Through Long Grass)

A Barn Owl has Long Legs

Barn owls do have relatively long legs compared to some other owl species. While their legs might not always be immediately visible due to the feathers covering their body, these legs are pretty elongated. This anatomical feature benefits their hunting strategy, allowing them to reach out and grasp prey with their powerful talons.

The length of their legs also aids in maneuvering through long grass and underbrush while hunting for rodents and other small animals on the ground. The feathering that extends down to their toes helps keep them warm and hidden, especially in their often cooler, nocturnal hunting grounds.

The Wingspan of a Barn Owl

The Wingspan of a Barn Owl is Long

Your average barn owl has a wingspan of about 80 to 95 cm. Since there are 28 subspecies of barn owls, most will have a wingspan in the 80 – 90 cm range. Barn owls have relatively long wings due to their body size, contributing to their excellent flying abilities and hunting strategy.

These long, broad wings allow them to fly slowly but with exceptional maneuverability, which is crucial when hunting for prey. The wing shape also will enable them to glide silently, an adaptation enhancing their stealth as nocturnal predators.

These Birds Will Screech and Hiss but Not Hoot!

Barn owl call – screech – Audio by: Franck Hollander, XC828901. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/828901.

Nocturnal night call – Bernard Borsu, XC804978. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/804978.

Barn owls don’t hoot like other owls. Instead, they are known for a spine-chilling screech and sometimes a hissing sound. These calls are used to communicate, and you can hear them from quite a distance.

Barn Owls are Not Picky About Where They Live

Barn Owls are Not Picky About Where They Live

The barn owl is an adaptable bird that can find a nest site in various environments worldwide. It’s not picky about where it lives as long as the area has a good supply of prey to hunt.

Barn owls adapt well to human presence and you’ll see them near farms, old buildings, abandoned buildings, and other structures where they can nest and hunt for rodents and other small prey. The barn owls wide distribution is a testament to their adaptability to various climates and habitats.

Nest Boxes Can Attract Barn Owls

Nest Boxes Can Attract Barn Owls

One way to attract owls to your yard is by adding nest boxes. Barn owls will use a nest box if it’s big enough and if they can easily see the opening.

Providing nest boxes can effectively support barn owl populations, especially in areas where natural nesting sites, such as tree cavities, old barns, or other secluded structures, are scarce. A well-placed nest box can mimic a hollow tree.

These Owls Live on Every Continent Except Antarctica!

These Owls Live on Every Continent Except Antarctica!

Barn owls are impressive in their global presence. You can spot them in all parts of the world except Antarctica. Like the short-eared owl, great-horned owl, and snowy owls, they tend to follow their food supply!

Here’s a broad overview of the most widely distributed species of owl:

  1. North America: Across the United States, Mexico, and Canada, though more sparsely in northern areas.
  2. South America: Throughout the continent, from Argentina and Chile up through Brazil, Venezuela, and Colombia.
  3. Europe: Widespread across Europe, from the Iberian Peninsula and Britain to Russia.
  4. Africa: Found throughout Africa, from the northern Mediterranean coasts to the southern tip of South Africa.
  5. Asia: Present across a wide area, from the Middle East through India, Southeast Asia, and parts of China.
  6. Australia and Oceania: Including Australia, New Zealand, and various Pacific islands.

Female Barn Owls Stay in the Nest to Protect and Feed the Young

Female Barn Owls Stay in the Nest to Protect and Feed the Young

Female barn owls play a significant role in caring for their young. After laying the eggs, the female primarily stays in the nest to brood and protect the hatchlings, while the male takes on the responsibility of hunting and bringing food back to the nest for the female and their offspring.

This division of labor ensures that the chicks are kept warm, safe from predators, and well-fed until they are old enough to leave the nest. Both parents’ care and feeding of the young are crucial for the survival and health of barn owl chicks.

What Age Do Barn Owls Take Their First Flight

What Age Do Barn Owls Take Their First Flight

Barn owl chicks, or owlets, typically take their first flight when they are about 8 to 10 weeks old. This initial flight, or fledging, marks a significant milestone in their development, transitioning from dependent chicks to more independent juveniles.

The owlets will practice flapping their wings and making short hopping flights within the nest or nearby branches, strengthening their muscles and improving their coordination. After their first flight, they continue to learn hunting skills from their parents and gradually become more proficient flyers and hunters over the following weeks.

Swallow Their Prey Whole

Swallow Their Prey Whole

Barn Owls swallow their prey whole without chewing. Their hunting strategy involves using their keen sense of hearing and excellent night vision to locate their prey, usually small animals like mice, voles, and shrews. They don’t usually go after small cats.

Once they capture their prey with their sharp talons, they will typically kill it with a bite to the head or neck. Here’s how the process works:

  1. Capture and Kill: After detecting and swooping down on their prey, barn owls use their powerful talons to grasp and kill it.
  2. Swallow Whole: The owl swallows its prey whole, head first. This is facilitated by their flexible beak and the strong muscles in their neck.
  3. Digestion: Inside the owl’s stomach, digestive enzymes and strong stomach acids break down the soft tissue of the prey. Indigestible parts like bones, fur, and feathers form a compact pellet mass.
  4. Regurgitation: About 12-24 hours after eating, the owl regurgitates the pellet, which contains the indigestible parts of its meal. This regurgitation is a normal part of their digestion process and helps to keep their digestive system clean.

This feeding method is common among owls and allows them to efficiently process their food while avoiding parts that they cannot digest.

Barn Owls are Silent Flyers

Barn Owls are Silent Flyers

Did you know that barn owls are renowned for their silent flight? Their excellent eyesight, coupled with silent flight, is an adaptation that makes them highly effective nocturnal hunters.

This quiet approach allows them to sneak up on their prey, primarily small mammals, without being detected. Several adaptations contribute to this ability:

  • Feather Structure: The leading edge of the barn owl’s wing feathers has a serrated design, which helps to break down turbulence into smaller currents, reducing noise. The rest of their wing and body feathers are soft and fluffy, which further muffles sound.

  • Wing Shape: Their wings are relatively large compared to their body size, allowing for slower flight speeds with less flapping, which reduces noise.

  • Flight Technique: Barn owls glide silently, minimizing wing flapping when approaching prey.

These features combined make the barn owl one of the most silently flying birds, enabling it to hunt efficiently by using its acute hearing to detect prey in complete darkness without being heard.

Barn Owl Nicknames – Common Names

Barn Owl Nicknames - Common Names

The common barn owl (Tyto alba) has several nicknames that reflect its appearance, behavior, and the folklore surrounding it. Some of the common nicknames include:

  1. Ghost Owl: This nickname is due to its silent flight, pale coloration, and eerie calls, which can make the barn owl seem ghost-like in night.
  2. Night Owl: This nickname is appropriate since they often hunt at night!
  3. Monkey-faced Owls: The distinctive heart-shaped face and forward-facing eyes can resemble a monkey’s face to some, leading to this unusual nickname.
  4. White Owl: This term refers to the barn owl’s typically light, often white, underparts, which contrast with its golden-brown back and wings.
  5. Screech Owl: Though not technically correct (as the name “screech owl” belongs to a different genus of owls, Megascops), this nickname comes from the barn owl’s sharp, shrill calls. The barn owl does not hoot like many other owl species; instead, it produces a variety of sounds, including screeches.
  6. Church Owl: This name reflects the barn owl’s habit of roosting and nesting in church steeples and other manufactured structures, including barns.
  7. Death Owl: In some cultures, the appearance or call of a barn owl is considered an omen of death or bad luck, which has led to this somber nickname.
  8. Golden Owl: This nickname can refer to the golden hue of the barn owl’s feathers on its back and head.
  9. Demon Owl: People unfamiliar with these birds’ natural calls and behaviors might have found their sudden appearance at night unsettling or ominous, contributing to the creation of such a foreboding nickname. 

These nicknames vary by region and culture, reflecting the rich tapestry of human interaction with these enigmatic birds.

There are over 30 Subspecies of Barn Owl

Although there is one barn owl species, Tyto alba, several subspecies vary regionally in appearance and habitat. The exact number of these subspecies can vary according to different taxonomic interpretations, with some sources recognizing about 30 to 40 subspecies.

These subspecies are distributed across many parts of the world, including Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Australasia, reflecting the barn owl’s adaptability to various environments. Differences among subspecies can include variations in size, coloration, and plumage patterns adapted to their specific local environments.

Barn Owls are Solitary Birds That Don’t Form Large Flocks

Barn owls are mainly solitary creatures. Each adult owl claims a territory for itself, which it defends from others of its kind. However, during the breeding season, you’ll notice that male and female barn owls will pair up to raise their young. Their nests are in quiet, concealed spots like barns, hence their name, or in natural hollows.

Barn Owls Regurgitate Pellets

Barn Owls Regurgitate Pellets

Did you know that barn owls can’t digest the fur and bones of their prey? They cough up these indigestible parts as owl pellets. It’s like getting rid of stuff you can’t use! Scientists study these pellets to learn what barn owls have been eating. Typically, barn owl pellets might contain the bones of small rodents like shrews, hinting at their hunting habits.

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