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Barn Owl

Summary: The Barn owl, was once feared as an omen of death. Now that we understand the Screech owl's positive environmental impact, we welcome this bird of prey.

The Barn owl is the most widely disbursed species of owl. It can be found in many different areas in the world except for deserts, Polar Regions, northern Asia, Indonesia, and the Pacific Islands.

In the United States the Barn owl, also known as the Barn owl, is so called because of its distinct screech call that can be heard for some distance. It also hisses when captured or is threaten by an intruder. But, along with its œbark, this owl also possesses a bite. It will gladly use its sharp talons if you choose to ignore its verbal warnings.
The Barn owl is a pale, long-winged, long-legged owl with a short square tail. It has a peculiar heart-shaped face disc with sharp black eyes and feathers above the beak, making it look like it has a nose. Its coloring is a mixture of buff and grey, with brown markings on its back and wings. The wings also have bands of darker brown or black. 

As with other birds of prey, the female is larger than the male. Chicks are covered with fluffy down feathers, but have the distinct face disc early on. When the chicks fledge the fluffy down feathers will be replaced with adult feathers, including flight feathers.

As with most owls, Barn owls are nocturnal hunters, but can also be found hunting shortly before dusk and shortly after dawn. The bird prefers open farmland or grassland with some interspersed woodland cover and it likes to hunt along the edges of the woods.  Broken farmland also provides a variety of barns and other farm out buildings that can be used for sheltered roosting and nesting sites. 

The owl's flight is silent because of tiny serrations at the leading edge of their flight feathers.  These serrations helps break up noise producing turbulence. The owls hunt by flying low and slow over open fields and hover over spots that conceal potential prey.  They have also been observed using fence posts or other lookouts to ambush prey. 

Because the majority of the owl's diet is rodents, which can damage a farmer's crops, farmers will often provide nesting/roosting boxes for the owls. Farmers consider these owls as the most economically valuable wildlife animals and try to encourage them to remain in their area.

The owls have very acute hearing and easily hear prey moving under snow.  They will pounce on the prey driving their talons under the snow to grasp the prey. Small prey is eaten whole, while larger prey is torn into chunks. Later any undigested fur, feathers, and bones, are regurgitated in what is called a œpellet.  Scientists often use owl pellets to study the ecology of a current or past habitat. 

The owls do have predators which include opossum, raccoons, larger raptors such as hawks, eagles, and other owls.  However, the biggest threat is humans and their pets, particularly cats, both domesticated and feral.  Humans have in the past considered owls as demons and harbingers of death. Now, that we have passed (mostly) from the dark ages and have been enlightened by all the Harry Potter movies, we know that owls are beneficial and welcomed guests to our property.

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