Barn Owl

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Scientific Name: Tyto alba
Size: 33-35cm
Weight: 300g
Wingspan: 85-93cm
Lifespan: 4 years
Breeding: April-May
Number of Clutches: 1-2
Number of Eggs: 4-7
Incubation Days: 27-34
Fledg Days: c. 60
Habitat: open country, savanna, farmland
Distribution: Europe, s Asia, Africa, Australasia, North & South America

Description

Of all the owls in the UK the mainly nocturnal Barn Owl is one of the most easily recognised and beautiful. Most people only get a brief glimpse, usually in the headlights of the car, but even this is enough to identify one of these stunning birds. With its dark eyes set in a grey-white heart shaped face, white under and pale reddish brown upper parts flecked with small black spots, this owl looks like no other. A little smaller than a Tawny Owl with narrower, longer wings both males and females look similar, although females tend to be a little larger with more spots across their backs. Bill and toes tend to be shades of pinkish whilst the talons are only ever black. They sometimes hunt during the day, usually in winter, when their mastery of hovering flight can be more readily observed

Nest

The nest site is usually in a tree or buildings, such as barns and derelict buildings, but also crevices in rocks and cliffs. At best the nest is a shallow hollow in existing debris. The birds usually pair for life. The female alone incubates the eggs, which are white, smooth and non-glossy, and about 40 mm by 32 mm. The newly-hatched young are fed by both adults. As with many owls the eggs are laid at about 2 day intervals, but the eggs are incubated straightaway and so also hatch at about 2 day intervals. If food is in short supply, the parents feed the oldest (and biggest) chick and the younger ones die and become food for the surviving chick or chicks. Barn Owls will use nest boxes.

Feeding

They hunt over open country for rodents (mainly voles), other small mammals, frogs, birds, and insects. Prey are normally caught during the night, though when they are feeding young or struggling to find enough food during harsh winter weather the birds can be seen in the daytime.

Legal Status

In the last 30 years or so the Barn Owl population has fallen by something like 50-70%, but the population now seems to have stabilised (except in Ireland). The fall was largely a result of habitat loss through changes in farming practices, for example: loss of hedgerows where their prey lives. Owing to this recovery, the Barn Owl is on the Amber List of birds of conservation concern. However, not only are many Barn Owls killed in collisions with road vehicles, but increasing numbers of birds have been failing to breed in recent years.

Voice

The Barn Owl makes a variety of blood-curdling screeches and hisses.

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