Barn owl Tyto alba

Perhaps the most familiar owl, the barn owl will often hunt during the daytime and can be seen ‘quartering’ over fields and grasslands looking for its next small mammal meal. The barn owl is ghostly white below, mottled silver-grey and buff above with a heart-shaped, white face and black eyes.

Behaviour

Barn owls are mostly nocturnal, hunting for small rodents such as mice and voles through the night. Barn owls are perfectly adapted to hunt in darkness with deadly precision. In many cases they are able to find prey by sound alone by using their silent flight and heart-shaped face (which can direct high-frequency sounds) to help them to find prey in the vegetation.

Size

  • Length: 33-39cm
  • Wingspan: 89cm
  • Weight: 300g
  • Average Lifespan: 4 years

Status

Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.

Distribution

Widespread, absent from the Highlands of Scotland.

When to see

January – December

Facts

  • Throughout history, barn owls have been known by many different names such as ‘ghost owl’, ‘church owl’ and ‘screech owl’. But the name ‘demon owl’, in particular, illustrates how they were considered by some rural populations – something not so difficult to understand when you hear its piercing call.
  • Barn owls are usually monogamous, staying with the same mate until one of them dies. However, mated pairs live independently outside of the breeding season.

Common name

Barn owl

Species name

Tyto alba

IUCN Red List status

Least concern

When to see in Scotland

January – December

Where to see in Scotland

Scottish Wildlife Trust reserves such as Largiebaan or Bemersyde Moss

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