SO YOU THINK YOU’VE SEEN A BARN OWL…
If you have seen a bird you THINK may be a Barn Owl, here are some key points to help you out.
If it is a Barn Owl, we are interested to know about it, but please keep your message confidential - don’t use the website “forum.” It is unwise to publicise the whereabouts of nest sites, because Barn Owls and their nests are protected by law. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Despite its beautiful colours, the Barn Owl often simply appears WHITE when you catch sight of it – especially if it was lit up by a car’s headlamps at night. They often seem “ghostly”, which explains some of the folklore about this bird of the night.
They fly absolutely silently. They can make a variety of sounds, though. Young owlets in the nest make a hissing snore, but adult Barn Owls are best known for the loud screech they call during the night.
SIZE AND SHAPE:
You may be surprised by the length of the Barn Owl’s wingspan when flying. It looks rather slender, but quite large in flight, compared to when it is sitting, with wings folded.
Sitting, the Barn Owl is about 330mm-350mm (13 or 14 inches) from head to tail, but its open wingspan can be 850mm -930mm. (34 to 37 inches)
BEHAVIOUR AND MOVEMENT:
The way a Barn Owl flies can vary. When it is hunting, it can change rapidly between a regular flapping flight, or quick turns and flutters, or even hovering, which it often does before diving for prey. You may see it simply sitting on fence posts and listening for prey, and flying along a favourite stretch of hunting ground, going from perch to perch. Or it may follow a fence line or grassy strip without stopping at all.
Barn Owls are just as likely to be using hollow trees for nests or roosts, and not just barns or churches, as you see them depicted on television.
See our other Barn Owl fact-files on pellets, droppings, calls and behaviour.