The barn owls represent one of the two main strains of owl and clearly evolved a long time ago. There are about ten species but the Barn Owl is very widely distributed indeed. It is not found at high latitudes or in the main mass of Asia but breeds in Europe, Africa, India, SE Asia, Australia and North, Central and South America.
The forms can be rather different but the European one, eight pairs breed within about four kms of where I am writing this, is the familiar white owl seen quartering rough ground like a huge pale moth at dusk. They have exquisite white plumage mottled with buff and grey. The facial disc is heart-shaped and the birds have long legs covered with white feathers. They feed on small mammals and their population and breeding performance depends on vole numbers.
The characteristic call is a strange snoring noise which can be heard at a range of several hundred metres. The nest is generally in a tree hole or abandoned building. The right sort of nestbox is readily taken. The British and Irish population has shrunk over many years and there are currently just over 5,000 pairs.
The white owl of temperate and tropical areas.
The following Bird On! picture is available:
Barn Owl (Watercolour by Robert Gillmor)
Length 340 mm Closed wing 290 mm Weight 300 gms
A Bird On! Sketch by Chris Mead
Copyright © 1996 by Jacobi Jayne & Company and Chris Mead