A photo of a Western Barn Owl (Tyto alba), male
Western Barn Owl, Male

Western Barn Owl

Tyto alba

The barn owl (Tyto alba) is the most widely distributed species of owl in the world and one of the most widespread of all species of birds, being found almost everywhere in the world except for the polar and desert regions, Asia north of the Himalayas, most of Indonesia, and some Pacific Islands. It is also known as the common barn owl, to distinguish it from the other species in its family, Tytonidae, which forms one of the two main lineages of living owls, the other being the typical owls (Strigidae). There are at least three major lineages of barn owl: the western barn owl of Europe, western Asia, and Africa; the eastern barn owl of southeastern Asia and Australasia; and the American barn owl of the Americas. Some taxonomic authorities classify barn owls differently, recognising up to five separate species; and further research needs to be done to resolve the disparate taxonomies. There is considerable variation of size and colour among the approximately 28 subspecies, but most are between in length, with wingspans ranging from . The plumage on the head and back is a mottled shade of grey or brown; that on the underparts varies from white to brown and is sometimes speckled with dark markings. The face is characteristically heart-shaped and is white in most subspecies. This owl does not hoot, but utters an eerie, drawn-out screech. The barn owl is nocturnal over most of its range; but in Great Britain and some Pacific Islands, it also hunts by day. Barn owls specialise in hunting animals on the ground and nearly all of their food consists of small mammals, which they locate by sound, their hearing being very acute. The owls usually mate for life unless one of the pair is killed, whereupon a new pair bond may be formed. Breeding takes place at varying times of the year, according to the locality, with a clutch of eggs, averaging about four in number, being laid in a nest in a hollow tree, old building, or fissure in a cliff. The female does all the incubation, and she and the young chicks are reliant on the male for food. When large numbers of small prey are readily available, barn owl populations can expand rapidly; and globally the bird is considered to be of least conservation concern. Some subspecies with restricted ranges are more threatened.
Birda logo
Download Birda for free and join the community of curious everyday people connecting with the natural world
Birda logo
Download Birda for free and join the community

Western Barn Owls on Birda



A map showing the sighting location
Profile picture for Ashwell Barrett Glasson
Ashwell Barrett Glasson
Tuesday 26 Sep 2023 - 7:33pm
South Africa
A map showing the sighting location
Profile picture for Beth King
Beth King
Tuesday 26 Sep 2023 - 7:25pm
United Kingdom
A photo of a Barn Owl photographed in Strumpshaw Fen RSPB Nature Reserve United Kingdom
Profile picture for Chris Palmer
Chris Palmer
Monday 25 Sep 2023 - 7:35pm
United Kingdom
A map showing the sighting location
Chris Lamonby
Monday 25 Sep 2023 - 7:04pm
United Kingdom
Connect with nature,
Find your flock
Download Birda - QR Code
© 2023 All rights reserved