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BARN OWL FACTS

 

Class : Aves
Order : Strigformes
Family : Tytoninae
Subfamily : Tytonina
Genus : Tyto
Latin name : Tyto alba
Length : 13 - 14 inches (33 - 36 cm)
Description : Golden, buff back and wings with discreet grey and white flecking; white face set in heart-shaped facial disc and white underparts. Dark eyes.
Vocal emission : Hissing, shrieking
Habitat : Farmland, stackyards, pasture, meadows, field margins, hedgerows, uncultivated land and rough grazing.
Nesting : No nest material; lofts, wall holes, church towers, tree holes, occasionally cliffs and old quarries.
Eggs : Average 4 - 7, April and May, white, incubated by female, 30-33 days. Nestlings fed by both parents, fly by about 9-10 weeks.
Food : Mice, voles, shrews and rats, small birds, occasionally beetles and frogs.
Some British names : White Hoolet, Silver Owl, Screech Owl, Jenny Howlet, Cailleachoidhche Gheal (Gaelic) meaning white old woman of the night, Pudge, Hoolet, Oolet, Ullat, Gillhowlet, Gil-hooter

      

One of the most attractive species of birds, the Continental barn owl is perceptibly darker than its counterpart in Britain, where the paler race is often perceived as a ghostly figure floating through the trees. The barn owl's flight is buoyant, often undulating with eyes trained on the ground below. It will frequently pirouette before stooping, plunging feet first into the vegetation to seize it's prey, wings held aloft. 

Barn owls' eyes are not quite as large and prominent as those of other British owls but there is no doubt that it can see extremely well even in the poorest light. Barn owls favour lowland farmlands and are most commonly seen at dusk or dawn. 

Incubation is the prerogative of the hen bird although the cock is seldom far away and for long hours will roost beside his brooding mate. Incubation lasts for just over a month. Tens weeks are required for fledging and leaving the nest. 

It is a long established fact that barn owls are farmers' ally, they are the destroyer of farmyard pests.  However, it is also a fact that threats to barn owls are constantly on the rise from the 2 main following reasons:

1. Consumption of farmyard rodents feeding on chemically-treated farm produce led to toxic materials building up in the owls, resulting in inability to breed and ultimately causing deaths. Improved storage of grains and use of rodent poisons depleted the number of mice and rats in farmyards, while poisons have entered the food chain. 

2. Favoured hunting grounds such as meadows and rough pastures are being cultivated and turned into productive agricultural land with the help of improved technology.

Although barn owls are widely distributed across globe, their decline is most marked in Europe.
       

       
Research gathered from:  Owls by Keith Graham 

Photographs by 
Neil McIntyre (fence)
Laurie Campbell (flight)
Andy Rouse (landing)

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