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Barn Owl Tyto alba


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Barn Owl
credit: Matt Khoth/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Tytonidae, Barn Owls view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE Has orange-buff upperparts that are speckled with tiny black and white dots. Underparts are whitish overall, but adorned with numerous black spots. White facial disc is heart shaped and bill is yellowish. In flight, underwings are pure white. ADULT FEMALE Similar, but underparts (including underwings) are variably flushed with orange-buff. JUVENILE Similar to adult.

Dimensions Length: 18" (46 cm); Wngspn: 3' 8" (1.1 m)

Habitat Vulnerable and declining. Mainly resident, but northern birds move south in winter. Relies on undisturbed grassland rich in small mammals and is badly affected by habitat loss and degradation, notably from farming. Loss of roosting and nesting sites (tree holes and derelict farm buildings) are also factors in population declines. Installing artificial nest boxes near suitable feeding areas is helping the species.

Observation Tips Usually crepuscular or nocturnal, but in winter and when there are chicks to feed in summer, it sometimes hunts small mammals in late afternoon.

Range Great Lakes, Southwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Florida, New England, Mid-Atlantic, California, Texas, Southeast, Western Canada, Northwest, Eastern Canada

Voice Utters a blood-curdling, screaming call.

Discussion Beautiful owl that looks ghostly white when caught in car headlights. Flight is leisurely and slow on broad wings. Sexes are often separable although considerable variation and overlap exists.