What is a Barn Owl?

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  • Written By: Anna T.
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  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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The barn owl is a type of bird found on almost every continent in the world. They are primarily nocturnal, and eat mostly small rodents. The average barn owl might have a white, heart-shaped face with brown around the edges and a gray lower body dotted with scattered brownish or black markings. Male barn owls may grow to be up to about 15 inches (38 cm) in length with a wingspan of roughly 42 inches (107 cm). Females may be slightly larger, with an average length of about 15.5 inches (40 cm) and a wingspan of around 43 inches (110 cm).

Most barn owls living in the wild have a relatively short life span. It is not uncommon for the majority to die before they reach two years of age. Owls that are kept as pets or in protected conditions might live to be between 10 and 20 years old. Some predators that occasionally kill barn owls are eagles, falcons, or any type of hunting bird that is larger. Snakes have also been known to attack and kill these birds.

The only continent without a barn owl population is Antarctica. They exist everywhere else, but weren't introduced to Hawaii until the late 1950s. The average barn owl prefers open areas to forest, but might be found in any habitat where catching prey is a likely possibility.


Even though barn owls are typically considered nocturnal birds, they may occasionally be seen outside hunting during the day. These birds spend a great majority of their time seeking out prey, which usually consists of rats, moles, or small rabbits. They may also eat frogs, lizards, and almost any other type of small animal they are able to catch. Barn owls may be seen flying over open land, such as pastures or any type of grassy field, since small prey are easier to catch in these areas.

Breeding normally occurs only once or twice each year, but could be more frequent when there is a plague of small rodents. Most barn owls begin breeding when they are about 10 months old. These birds might build nests for their young inside tree hollows, abandoned buildings, or caves. Barn owls normally lay between three and 12 eggs, which hatch in roughly 30 days. The young chicks are typically with their mother for a few months, and then leave the nest for good after they have learned to hunt.


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