Barn OwlTyto alba

adult male
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
adult female
Carl D. Marti/VIREO
adult female
Carl D. Marti/VIREO
Kevin Smith/VIREO
Steve Young/VIREO
Tom Vezo/VIREO
Barn Owl
Barn Owl



18" (46 cm). W. 3' 8" (1.1 m). Crow-sized. Buff-brown above and white below, with heart-shaped face and numerous fine dark dots on white underparts; dark eyes, long legs.


Hissing notes, screams, guttural grunts, and bill snapping. Young give rapid grackle-like clicks.


screams of young
screams #2
tinkling calls
screams #1


Open country, forest edges and clearings, cultivated areas, and cities.


Resident from southern British Columbia, Dakotas, Michigan, and southern New England southward. Also in South America and Old World.


This nocturnal ghost of a bird frequents such places as belfries, deserted buildings, and hollow trees. It hunts its food -- almost entirely rodents -- in garbage dumps, neglected cemeteries, run-down farms, and empty lots in large cities. In the glare of auto headlights, a flying Barn Owl looks snow white and so is often mistaken for a Snowy Owl. Barn Owls are effective mousers and take many rats. Owls do not digest fur and bone but periodically rid themselves of these in the form of regurgitated pellets. Barn Owl pellets are easily collected from roosts and can be a useful source of information about the small mammals in an area. Contrary to popular belief, owls see well by day, but their large eyes do give them especially good night vision. Experiments have shown, however, that Barn Owls depend on keen hearing to locate their prey. These owls appear to practice birth control: When food is scarce they lay fewer eggs or may not breed at all.


5-10 white eggs on bare wood or stone in buildings, hollow trees, caves, or even in burrows.

Similar Species

adult male

Snowy Owl

24" (61 cm). W. 4' 7" (1.4 m). A big, round-headed owl, ranging in color from pure white to white with dark spotting or barring.

adult Northern Spotted Owl

Spotted Owl

16 1/2 -19" (42-48 cm). A medium-sized owl without ear tufts. Upperparts dark brown with white spots; underparts white, heavily barred with brown; eyes dark.


Barred Owl

20" (51 cm). W. 3' 8" (1.1 m). A large, stocky, dark-eyed owl. Gray-brown, with crossbarring on neck and breast and streaks on belly; no ear tufts. See Spotted Owl.

adult male

Short-eared Owl

16" (41 cm). A crow-sized, long-winged owl of open country. Tawny brown with rather heavy streaks below; blackish patch around each eye. Very short ear tufts are rarely visible.


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