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The Barn Owl Trust

Conserving the Barn Owl and its Environment

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About the Barn Owl



Home Range

In many ways, Barn Owls' lives are very much like ours. You probably have a routine and travel regularly from your home to other places (work, school, seeing friends etc.). Day-after-day you keep repeating the same actions over and over again. All your regular outings are in an area we could call your "home range" and you've memorised lots of routes and different places - especially food collection (shopping) places - you can even remember the exact aisle and shelf position of numerous foods. Detailed familiarity allows you to use your home range very efficiently and gives you an increased chance of survival. In this respect, Barn Owls are just the same.


Home Birds

Just like you, Barn Owls are creatures of habit and they spend a lot of time at home. People who go out to watch wild Barn Owls face two major problems. Firstly, outside the nesting season Barn Owls hardly ever DO anything, and secondly, when they do, it's usually too dark for anyone to see! Bird ringing plus the recent use of high-tech equipment such as hidden cameras, radio tracking, night-vision binoculars, as well as endless patience, are revealing the story...

Barn Owl hollow tree 3

Nesting and Roosting

Within their home range Barn Owls generally have one nest site, up to three regular roost sites, and up to five sites that they only visit occasionally - perhaps to shelter from a shower of rain. However, there is a good deal of variation. Some pairs roost together at the nest site all year round whereas others only use the nest site whilst nesting, use different winter roost sites, and spend very little time together. When it comes to sexual activity, nest cameras have revealed huge variation between individuals - some are very active and attentive to their mates whereas others are quite lethargic - just like people! Whilst breeding, adult Barn Owls may be active (hunting, mating, feeding young) all night (about six hours in midsummer) but during the rest of the year they generally roost at least 22 out of every 24 hours.



Although Barn Owls are mainly crepuscular (active at dusk and dawn), there is huge individual variation - some are highly nocturnal whereas others regularly hunt by day. Barn Owls are amazingly efficient hunters. When prey is abundant and the weather favourable they are able to catch food every few minutes! Although Barn Owls are highly adapted specialists, they are also incredibly vulnerable. Their soft feathers are not very waterproof so rainfall is a problem. A wet Barn Owl is unable to fly silently and a weak wet Barn Owl may be unable to fly at all. They have great difficulty hunting in high winds and during bitterly cold weather they rapidly lose body heat and need extra food.


When times are hard or there's a large brood of young to feed, the owls' detailed local knowledge makes all the difference. And, like you, Barn Owls mate for "as long as ye both shall live"...

There is more information about this topic in the Barn Owl Conservation Handbook.

The Barn Owl Trust is dedicated to conservation & education and does not operate a visitor centre.
Barn Owl Trust staff and volunteers
Waterleat, Ashburton, Devon TQ13 7HU
+44 (0) 1364 653026