Barn Owl in the farmyard at night – with Barn Owl Fact-file for kids
- The Barn Owl is about 25cm (10”) tall, with a wingspan of about 85cm (34″). Males usually weigh around 330g, while females are often a bit heavier at 360g – 425g.
- The face and undersides are mostly white – when you see one flying, it appears as a large white bird. However, if the owl is seen only from behind or above it looks light brown or grey. Its upper-parts are, in fact, a beautiful golden-buff colour, delicately marked in varying shades of grey and brown, sometimes with black and/or white, too.
- The males and females can be difficult to tell apart, particularly in the wild. Females often have darker upper surfaces and small black spots on the underside.
- Barn Owls screech (they do not hoot like the Tawny Owl).
- Barn Owls usually hunt by flying slowly back and forth (quartering), about 3m (10′) above the ground, looking and listening for their prey. Owls sometimes save energy by hunting from perches, such as fence posts.
- Barn Owls eat mainly small mammals, particularly field voles, shrews and wood mice.
- Prey is often swallowed whole and the bones and fur are regurgitated (coughed up) in the form of a pellet. Analysing Barn Owl pellets can tell you exactly what the owls have eaten.
- Barn Owls hunt mainly at night-time – especially dawn and dusk – using their large eyes and incredibly sensitive ears. Their ears are hidden in the heart-shaped disc around their face.
- Barn Owls hunt in open habitat (they are not woodland birds), especially rough grassland (where lots of field voles live), field margins, hedgerows, woodland edges, stubble fields, drainage ditches and farmyards.
Drawing by Andrew Miller, with kind permission.