our animals

Common Barn Owl

Tyto alba

Barn owls are medium sized birds with large wings and a lightweight body. They have large eyes and a distinct white face. Generally speaking, females have darker plumage (feathers) and males tend to be lighter coloured. They are considered the most widely distributed species of owl in the world, being found on nearly every continent except Antarctica.

The barn owl is well-adapted for hunting at night. They have a concave collection of feathers on their face (called a facial disk) which funnels sound into their ears, increasing their ability to hear prey. In addition, they have soft feathers which muffle sound and serrated edges to flight feathers so they can fly in total silence.

The numbers of barn owls in the UK has always fluctuated, during the Victorian period they were hunted and trapped by game keepers that blamed birds of prey for game loss. Heavy rainfall during winter and early spring can have an impact on numbers as barn owls can not hunt during the rain and this can result in barn owls starving. Numbers have steadily been increasing the last few years and the BTO regularly survey and monitor numbers.

Barn owls don’t hoot like most owls, instead the screech or hiss, a reason they are sometimes referred to as a screech owl. They were known a demon owls previously because of their eery noise and the sound used to be a common background sound in scary movies.

Barn Owl

fun facts

Conservation Status:

Least concern


Every continent except Antarctica


Field edges, water courses, grass areas around woodlands


Mostly rodents, occasionally bats, birds, frogs, and insects





Incubation period:

31-32 days

Life Span:

11-17 yrs