Barn Owl Tyto alba
The Barn Owl is one of the most widespread species of owls in the world. They are found on every continent except Antarctica. In North America they are found from coast to coast up to the northern parts of the United States. Like their name suggests, they are known to nest and roost in dark cavities of barns and other buildings.
The Barn Owl is almost entirely pale white underneath with rusty brown to grayish shading on top. They are easily identified by their characteristic heart-shaped facial disc which is unique amongst North American Owls.
Common Barn Owls utilize a variety of different vocalizations to communicate with each other. Most commonly heard is a screaming call issued in flight to proclaim its territory and attract a mate. A hissing sound is also made as a defense call when threatened or agitated.
Barn Owls live and hunt in a variety of different habitats including forests, grasslands, marshes, and other areas with mild climates. However, they seem to prefer open spaces especially those with buildings or old growth trees for nesting.
Barn Owl diets have been studied thoroughly through pellet dissection. Their diet consists mostly of small to medium sized mammals, specifically mice, voles, and shrews. However, they have been found to eat rabbits, skunks, lizards, insects, and other birds.
Barn Owls, like most raptors, choose one mate who they will pair with for life. They usually spend most of the year within close proximity of the nest site, which they defend vigorously from any intruder. Barn Owls will readily use next boxes that are put up by humans.
As a population, Common Barn Owl numbers are declining across their range in North America. This decline is caused in part by habitat loss and unfavorable agricultural practices that affect their prey source.
The Common Barn Owl plays an important role in its environment, and is a crucial key to keeping rodent populations in check. One Common Barn Owl pair has the potential to eat up to 3,000 mice per year. Farmers are starting to use this fact to their advantage by putting up owl boxes in their fields to attract Barn Owls and help them control rodent populations that destroy their crops.