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Barn Owl Information

Latin Name: tyto alba

UK Population Figure:
Estimated at around 4 to 6000 pairs in the wild

Plumage: The plumage covering the head, back & outer wings are of a rich apricot colour; scattered with silvery blue mottling & the frontal area & under parts of the wings are of pure white, eyes are black & surrounded by a distinctive white facial disk that is heart-shaped.

Female Markings: Distinctive black speckling on frontal area under wing parts & a distinctive dark pencilled line around the facial disc together with an apricot coloured necklace.

Male Markings: Under parts & facial disc are of pure white.

Hearing Capabilities: Barn Owls mainly hunt by sound rather than by sight. With its acute hearing the Barn Owl can detect the slightest movement & sound of its prey. The ears are set asymmetrically, meaning one ear is higher than the other. The ears are located under the feathering of the inside edge of the facial disc, located next to the eyes. The facial disc acts as an amazing sound funnel, collecting & filtering sound. This allows the Owl to detect the movement of its prey with complete accuracy.

It is said that a Barn Owl can actually hear a mouse's heartbeat in a 30ft sq room.

Diet: The main diet for the Barn Owl is the short-tailed Vole; other rodents include shrews, wood mice & young rats.

Favoured Nest & Roost Sites: Old barns, tree hollows and nest boxes.

Barn Owl Pellets: An Owl pellet taken apart carefully will tell you everything about the type of prey it has been feeding on.

A Barn Owl pellet consists of the remains of small mammals, these remains are the skeleton parts that are tightly wrapped in condensed mammal fur. Due to the low acid content within the Owls stomach these are items an Owl cannot fully digest.

Pellets are formed within the Owls stomach & then regurgitated or coughed up out of the beak, this usually takes place whilst sat at its favourite roosting perch.

If food is plentiful, a Barn Owl can regurgitate at two separate intervals, two pellets per day.

For further reading on Barn Owl pellets & diet please visit the web site of the Mammal Society

Barn Owl Pellet

Pellet Analysis

Mixed Pellets

Good Habitat: Open countryside that contains a good mixture of the following:

Rough Grasslands, marshland, scrubland, young tree plantations, hedgerows, edge of woodland & field margins left alongside hedgerows.

Habitat & Land Management Advice.
Visit the web site of FWAG: Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group

In support of the wild Barn Owl, there are many organisations, landowners & individuals throughout the UK involved in habitat & nest box projects.

This is to help support the growth in population & to support its prey.

The main food intake is the short-tailed Vole, other small rodents include shrews, wood mice and young rats.

Do Barn Owls mate for life? YES if the environment doesn't pose a threat.

Favoured Nest & Roost Sites: Old barns, tree hollows and nest boxes.

Breeding Season: Around March or April. This can be delayed if the weather conditions are bad. Eggs are white & oval shaped. The clutch size can average from 4 to 6 depending on habitat, the largest clutch size ever recorded is 12. Incubation time is approximately 33 days. Barn Owls can have up to 2 broods per year if the habitat and weather conditions are in their favour. The Young Owlets will fledge at around 50 days & disperse to further territories.
It is sad to say that the majority of young Owls will sadly perish within their first year.

Short tailed Vole
Short tailed Vole

Short Tail Vole

Colour: Grey-brown above, creamy-grey underneath, rounded snout, less prominent eyes than mice & short ears completely covered with fur.

Approximately 90-110mm; distinctive short tail.

Averaging between 20-40g.

Rough grassland areas, woodland, hedgerows, dunes & moorland. Grass is the field voles only food source and shredded grass is used to make their nests, which are about 10cm in diameter. Nests are built at the base of grass roots, in underground burrows or even under discarded man made materials such as corrugated roof sheets.

Breeding Season:
This begins in March/April and ends between October and December.

Young: Up to 5 are normally found in each litter and females will give birth to five or six litters per

Common Shrew
Common Shrew

Common Shrew

Colour: This can differ, dark brown, pale brown, whitish, covered with dense velvety fur, long pointed upturned snout, small eyes, small ears and red teeth.
Length: 40-80mm; long tail. Weight: 5-14g.
Habitat: Found in damp areas, hedgerows, scrubland, grassland and deciduous woodland. Food: Insects, earthworms, small slugs and snails.
Breeding Season: Starts around May until September.
Young: A litter will consist of 5-7 young.

Hazardous Conditions & Dangers Barn Owls face.

Harsh weather conditions.
Severe weather conditions such as prolonged rain & snow can have a great effect on the Barn Owls ability to survive. Many die from starvation under severe conditions. They simply struggle to find prey. (Click Images on the right)

Motorways, busy main roads & railways.
The rough grassland verges alongside commuter routes create the ideal areas for voles & other small rodents. These areas automatically attract Barn Owls to hunt alongside them. Many Barn Owls perish because the get hit by fast moving traffic.

Loss of grassland habitat & hedgerows.
Intense farming & heavy grazing will have a devastating effect on the number of voles. This inevitably will create problems for the Barn Owl.

Drowning in water troughs/cattle troughs.
This is fairly common during the breeding season especially when the female leaves the nest site to take a drink or to bathe. For the Owl's safety it is always a good practice to place on the surface of the water, a floating object, big enough to allow a Barn Owl to climb to safety if she falls in.

Other factors that contribute to the decline in Barn Owl numbers.
The loss of suitable roost & nest sites, for example old buildings & barns being converted into dwellings, a shortage of natural tree hollows, rat poisons, shooting (we were recently called out to a Barn Owl that had been shot, sadly the Owl died at the vets from its wounds, we were amazed that this type of persecution it is still happening within the countryside. Why?)

Average life span for a wild Barn Owl.
Due to the above dangers, wild Barn Owls do find it very difficult to survive. The life span of a Barn Owl in the wild can average anywhere from
1-5 years. In a more protected & safer environment a Barn Owl can live up to 20-25 years.

The Barn Owl Centre is a registered charity dedicated to community education, conservation and bird welfare
Charity. No : 1097410
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