When I think about owls it’s hard not to think about barn owls. I was raised in the country where barns and owls are plentiful. Barn owls are notorious for being extremely efficient silent hunters. The wings of the barn owl are made in such a way as to break the wind crossing over them. This disrupts the air flow in a manner that eliminates noise across the wings while they are in flight.

This ability to fly silently makes them fierce hunters. They can locate their prey and swoop down upon them without a sound. The Barn Owl is one of the most studied of all owls.

There have been extensive studies done with Barn Owls in totally darkened rooms to discover how they hunt their prey. It has been proven that they can hunt totally by sound alone. Sound is channeled through their facial ‘Ruff’ which is a concave surface on stiff feathers around the face. These are usually marked with dark tips. Once sound is detected they can pinpoint it accurately within 1 1/2 degrees.

Another interesting thing about them is that aside from sound they also depend on their familiarity with the surrounding territory for hunting. They spend a lot of time sitting and studying their hunting territories. This familiarity and intimate knowledge of the territory helps them to easily pounce on their prey.

Breeding And Nesting Habits

Barn Owls like to breed in places that are open or at least partly open. They love to find farmland and grasslands to breed in. They usually will have only one brood but on some occasions have been known to throw two.

They will nest in cliff crevices and will occasionally burrow in arroyo walls. They willingly take to nest boxes. Their nests are usually unlined but on occasion they will attempt at lining them with wood chips or small twigs and sticks.

The clutch size varies depending on the availability of prey and how hard the preceding winter happened to be. The males will feed the females throughout the incubation period. The young will hatch asynchronously over a span of two weeks.

They are monogamous breeders. Their young are semi-altricial. The eggs are white in color and are more elliptical than eggs of other owl species. They roost alone as a rule but will on occasion roost communally.

Diet And Conservation

They feed mainly on rodents. On rare occasions they will eat amphibians, insects, and reptiles. The species is in decline due to a loss of grasslands and farmlands through suburbanization. They winter within the United States.

Displays And Mating Rituals

When they are confronted it will lower its head and sway it from side to side. During courtship the Male will clap its wings together while in flight to attract its mate. It will ritually present food to its female interest to gain approval.

Barn Owls have been a friend to farmers for many years. It was always good to have a Barn Owl and a black snake in the barn to keep the mice and rats away. But it does make for a lazy cat.

Written by Jack C Arnett