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About Barn Owls
COMMON NAME: Barn Owl
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Tyto alba
Barn Owls are in a different group of owls than all others in North America, belonging to the Tytonidae family instead of the
Strigidae family. The differences can be seen in their heart-shaped face, square tail, small eyes and long legs, which are
feathered to the toes. Another distinctive feature is their ear placement. They are assymetric so they can more easily
triangulate the position of their prey. One ear is level with the forehead and the other is level with the nostril. This
makes them the most accurate bird at locating prey by sound. Barn owls' upper sides are colored light brown and their
undersides are white. Females are darker in color and also larger, ranging up to 20" in length. Males are 14-16"
in length. Medium-large in comparison with other North American owls, the Barn Owl has a large head without ear tufts and
its facial configuration is distinctively long, somewhat triangular and heart-shaped.
Their range is North, Central and South America, Europe, Africa, Southern and South-East Asia and Australia.
Barn owls typically have a fairly short life span of only about two years, although some have been known to live as long as 12
years. Mating season usually spans from late March to early April. (Ours began mating in late January.) Pairs will nest in a
secluded area, such as a barn loft, tree cavity, bird box, or cave. There the female will lay 4-7 white eggs, which will hatch
in about 32 days. Young fledge (leave the nest) at 52-56 days.
Barn owls are very common throughout California, even within cities. They prefer dense trees, however, close to the trunks of
evergreen, palm, eucalyptus, or cottonwood trees. Although primarily a rodent eater - and mainly mice and rats among the
rodents, the Barn Owl will catch, kill and eat a variety of other creatures ranging from insects to amphibians. Generally
active at night, their low-light vision, accurate hearing and silent flight make them excellent hunters. It is a bird of the
open country rather than the woodlands and is much less inclined to avoid the proximity of man than other owls. Probably no
other North American owl spends its lifetime so close to man and yet is observed less. The reason for that is because they
are so thoroughly nocturnal in their hunting habits and so exclusively retiring during the day. They will, however, hunt
during the day when necessary due to food burdens placed upon the nest.
As with practically all raptor species, the Barn Owl's greatest enemy is MAN. Direct human persecution from farmers
(shooting and trapping) has declined in recent years because most of the farmers have come to understand how beneficial
these birds are in keeping their fields free of rodents. But there are still some troglodytes out there that just don't
get it. I heard of a large farm where the caretaker shot all the raptors that flew overhead and then was forced to apply
hundreds of pounds of rat poison every year to keep the rats from chewing through the baling strings. Indirect human
persecution persists today in the form of secondary pesticide poisoning. Whatever toxins that the rodents have ingested
have an accumulative effect on the raptor. That's what happened to the Peregrine Falcon and the Bald Eagle back in the 70's.
They fed on DDT contaminated critters that lived in or near water. DDT is a very strong pesticide that got into the food
chain by way of run-off. The pesticide didn't kill the raptors outright, but it effected the calcium output leading to
Dont use rat or mouse poison!
Use live traps, if you live near owls!
(Or any other type of Raptors)
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