Species: T. alba
Common Names: Barn Owl, Common Barn Owl, Ghost Owl, Demon Owl
Barn owls hunt at dusk or at night, using its hearing to locate its prey. They mostly eat rodents and small mammals, though they will also prey upon small birds, lizards, frogs, fish and insects.
Barn owls have their share of predators, including mammals such as raccoons, as well as large birds of prey including eagles, hawks and other owls. Great horned owls and eagle owls will hunt barn owls.
Barn owl breeding can vary depending on habitat, since its range is so widely distributed throughout the world. In more tropical climates they may breed all year round, while in other areas they may favor the dry season or the wet season depending on the local climate.
Barn owl mates typically stay together for life. Once a nesting site has been established, the female usually stays near the nest, while the male will hunt and provide food for both partners. Females will lay an average of five eggs, with an incubation period of about 30 days. The male continues to bring food for the female and chicks after they hatch, until they are about a month old. After that, the female will begin to leave the nest as well. After nine weeks, the chicks will start to leave the nest, though they will still depend on their parents until around three months of age.
A medium-sized owl with a light yellowish-brown coloration, the barn owl typically has a wingspan of around three feet. It can be distinguished from other owls in flight by its short, squared-off tail.
The most distinct characteristic of the barn owl is its heart-shaped facial disc. Most owls have a facial disc – a unique arrangement of feathers around the owl’s face that forms a wide, flat area. The facial disc is thought to help an owl’s hearing. Most owl facial discs are round, but the barn owl’s is heart-shaped. The pale color of the disc and the unique shape give this owl a haunting appearance.
The owl’s haunting appearance has given them an undeserved reputation in many cultures for being a bad omen or a sign of evil. They are sometimes informally called “ghost owl” or “demon owl” due to their pale face and dark eyes. The Tzeltal people of Mexico associate the owls with disease, while in South Africa they are affiliated with witchcraft. Conversely, in India the barn owl is a symbol of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and good fortune.