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. However, barn owls are also perfectly adapted to hunt in darkness with deadly precision: their silent flight and heart-shaped face which directs high-frequency sounds, help them to find mice and voles in the vegetation.


Unmistakeable: the barn owl is ghostly white below, mottled silver-grey and buff above with a heart-shaped, white face and black eyes.


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


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.


Widespread, absent from the Highlands of Scotland.

When to see

January – December


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.

Common name

Barn owl

Species name

Tyto alba

When to see in Scotland

January – December

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