Barn Owls are the most widespread terrestrial bird species in the world. They are found on almost every continent, except Antarctica. They are among the most culturally influential birds. Barn Owls are exclusively nocturnal and are the origins behind the phrase “night owl”. These silent predators are found year-round in their natural habitats, hunting at night through open fields and meadows while nesting in abandoned buildings and barns. Their fondness for nesting in barns explains how they got their name.
These birds are unique compared to other owls. They do not hoot like owls do. Instead, they let out a raspy, hoarse cry while they hunt. Their wings enable them to fly without making a sound, a useful trait as it does not alert their prey or predators. These birds are very hard to spot. You can usually only identify them through a sudden flash of pale wings under some light. These birds are undoubtedly fascinating, which is why we have listed 10 of our favorite facts about Barn Owls to help you understand why these birds are so iconic.
10 Amazing Facts About Barn Owls
1. Barn Owls swallow their food whole!
Barn Owls do not clean or chew on their food, they prefer to swallow it whole with the skin and bones still included. As a result, they cough out pellets of indigestible matter which is made up of the skin and bones of their prey that they just consumed. These pellets are created in a special organ called the “gizzard” which contains compounds that are too hard to be broken down by the stomach such as the skin and bones. Pellets are very useful to scientists that want to learn more about their diets!
2. Barn Owls use pellets to build their nests!
Barn Owls place their nests in the holes of trees, cliff ledges and crevices, caves, burrows, and manmade structures such as barns, nest boxes, haystacks, and other buildings. The pellets that females cough up are shredded with her feet so that she can mold it, after which she arranges it into the shape of a cup. These nests are used for the remainder of the year and may even be reused by other owls in the following years.
3. Barn Owls are nocturnal hunters!
These owls have evolved to hunt in total darkness. They are able to do this because their wings don’t make any noise while they fly and they have remarkable hearing. They are capable of picking up the faintest of noises due to their uneven ears. Barn Owls can find prey underneath covers like grass and snow whilst flying in the air.
4. Barn Owls have uneven ears.
Like other owls, Barn Owls have ears placed at different levels on the side of their head. Since their ears face different directions, they can locate the source of a sound accurately without having to turn their head. The small cover of feathers over their ears also helps them in directing sound into their ears, thereby enhancing their already powerful hearing.
5. Barn Owls have excellent night vision!
Their eyes have adapted to centuries of hunting in absolute darkness. They can find prey in the dark with their night vision with ease, making them a formidable predator at night.
6. Barn Owls can memorize sounds!
Since Barn Owls have heightened hearing, these owls can also remember the sounds that they have heard if needed. They can memorize different vocalizations that prey make and know exactly what they are doing. This gives them an advantage while hunting because they can tell whether their prey is stationary, eating, or moving around.
7. Barn Owls keep farm pests away!
The primary prey of these owls are small mammals like rats, mice, bats, rabbits, and other rodents. They also eat birds like Starlings, Blackbirds, and Meadowlarks. Since most of their prey feed on seeds and fruits, they rid their surrounding areas of common threats to crops.
8. Barn Owls can survive in a large range of habitats!
The range of habitats that these birds can be found in is truly spectacular. They can be found in grasslands, marshes, fields, deserts, forests, woodlots, brush, ranches, suburbs, and cities. Their versatility in adapting to new environments is a big reason behind their widespread presence.
9. Females are more conspicuous than males.
While females of most bird species are dull in contrast to their male counterparts, female Barn Owls have vibrant reddish-brown hues that stand out against the red on their chests. Males are significantly more plain and small compared to females. Studies have shown that the number of spots on a female is telling of how immune they are from getting eaten. Females that have more spots catch fewer diseases and parasites compared to females that have fewer spots.
10. Males perform flight displays to attract females.
Courtship behaviors between birds are always fascinating to learn about, and the Barn Owl is no different. Males perform different flights and take on different positions to try and impress females. They present the potential nesting sites by flying in and out of the nests. They also do a “moth flight”. This is a position that the male assumes by hovering in front of a female while dangling his feet. Barn Owls are usually monogamous and mate for life, rarely ever separating. Some studies have shown that males may take up more than one mate on occasion, but males will continue to feed all of his mates throughout their incubation periods regardless of this.
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At the Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.
- Kids Bird Watching Monthly Subscription$10.00 / month
- Kid & Adult Bird Watching Starter Pack Subscription$10.00 / month and a $72.00 sign-up fee
- Kids Bird Watching Starter Pack Subscription$10.00 / month and a $19.00 sign-up fee
Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Barn Owls
The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Barn Owls are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.