The Barn Owl is one of the world’s most widespread species of owls. At night, its pale form may be glimpsed in a car’s headlights while it’s flying silently over open country, especially grassy areas and farmland on all continents (except Antarctica, where its preferred habitats do not occur). Its white, heart-shaped facial disc is characteristic, and assists the bird in finding food by concentrating noises, as the owl hunts by night by hearing its prey to locate it as well as by seeing it.
The Barn Owl is a slim and pale owl with a heart-shaped facial disc. Its upperparts are light grey with blotches of rich buff, covered with tiny, black, tear-shaped markings. Its underparts are white, cream or buff with fine, dark-brown streaks.
Habitat and Range
Barn Owls are widespread throughout mainland Australia, though are only irregular visitors to Tasmania. Preferring open habitats, Barn Owlds often inhabit grasslands and farmland, especially in crops that might attract rodents, or pasture. They also occur in open woodlands where there is a grassy understorey.
Barn Owls feed mostly on small mammals, especially rodents, but they also occasionally take small birds, reptiles, amphibians and sometimes insects. They hunt either by slowly gliding back and forth across open areas before dropping onto their prey, or by perching on a fence post, branch or similar perch, and then gliding silently onto its prey.
Barn Owls usually nest in deep hollows in old trees, especially eucalypts, but some may nest in caves, cavities beneath rocks or even mines, and some may nest in cavities in buildings. Females incubate the 3–6 white eggs, and she broods the nestlings, while the male hunts for food to feed them, which he passes to her in the nest.
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Text © Birdlife Australia
Image © Jona Photography