With heart shaped face, buff back and wings and pure white under parts the barn owl is a distinctive and much loved bird.
Widely distributed across the UK, and indeed the world, they have suffered from loss of natural habitat, and use of pesticides. Fortunately the decline, has halted in many areas and the population may now be increasing.
Farmers often find these owls more effective than poison in keeping down rodent pests, and they can encourage Barn Owl habitation by providing nest sites. In Germany it is common to see an’ Owl hole’ in the eaves of a house, to allow the bird access to the loft space to nest.
In the UK you will find Barn Owls in open country, along field edges, riverbanks and roadside verges. You can often see them during the day, but the best time is at dusk.
The Barn Owl does not build a complex nest, indeed it is just a scraping together of whatever material is around in the hole they chose to nest in. Typical nest sites include tree stumps and cliff crevices, but these owls will readily nest in attics, vacant and ruined buildings, or man-made nest boxes. Details of how to make your own box, and where to locate it can be found at The Barn Owl Trust website.
The Barn Owl has acute hearing, and it does not require sight to hunt. Compared to other owls of similar size, the Barn Owl has a much higher metabolic rate, requiring more food. Barn Owls consume more rodents than possibly any other creature, which makes them one of the most valuable wildlife animals to farmers.
Contrary to popular belief, it does not hoot, such calls are made by owls like the Tawny Owl. It instead produces the characteristic shree scream, ear-shattering at close range. It can hiss like a snake, and when captured or cornered, it will defend itself by throwing itself on its back and flailing with its sharp-taloned feet.
Number in Britain
Conservation Status UK
Amber (Europe declining also)
Status in UK
Open country, farmland, barns
Number of broods
First clutches laid
Age at First Breeding
Maximum Recorded Age
13 years 9 months