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20 Interesting Facts About Barn Owls

Barn Owls are common, yet fascinating, creatures. They sleep during the day and are active at night, they’re stealthy hunters, and have extremely acute hearing. They stand apart from other owls and birds of prey, and deserve a closer examination. Luckily, we’ve gathered 20 interesting facts about Barn Owls you may not know about!

20 interesting facts about Barn Owls

There’s something intriguing about Barn Owls. Their pale plumage and large, completely dark eyes give them a mysterious and somewhat creepy appearance — especially at night. They can be hard observe, too, due to their nocturnal behavior, but there are a few things we know about them for sure. For interesting facts about Barn Owls, and to learn all about these unique birds, look no further. 

Keep on reading to learn more about these graceful, nighttime predators. 

1. Barn Owls are found around the world


Barn Owls are the most widespread species of owl and of one of the most widespread types of birds in general. They are found all across the globe, in every continent except for Antarctica. In North America, they’re found throughout most of the United States and Mexico and in some sections of Canada. 

2. Barn Owls live in all sorts of habitats

One of the reasons Barn Owls are able to survive in most parts of the world is because of their adaptability in a diverse range of habitats. The only places they aren’t able to endure are areas like the arctic, where the cold climate is too extreme, and there aren’t enough sources of food. However, Barn Owls thrive in most wooded habitats with open spaces for hunting, as well as farmlands, groves, marshes, prairies, and deserts. 

3. Barn Owls really do like barns

image: 5thLargestinAfrica | CC 2.0

There’s a reason these birds are called “barn” owls. Quiet barns on wide open farmland are the perfect places for Barn Owls to build their nests, so they’re likely to take shelter in one. Barns are great protection from the weather and predators, and farmland also offers a main food source for the owls — rodents. 

4. Barn Owls nest in a variety of places 

image: Mark Gunn | Flickr | Barn Owlet | CC 2.0

Just because they often nest in barns doesn’t mean that Barn Owls don’t nest in other places. These opportunistic owls nest in all sorts of natural and man-made places in addition to barns such as cliffs, tree holes, caves, nesting boxes, church steeples, chimneys and other hollow spaces. 

5. Barn Owls offer pest control

A smart farmer that finds a family of Barn Owls nesting in their barn would be relieved, as these birds are experts at keeping pests at bay. According to The Peregrine Fund, it’s estimated that a Barn Owl eats a single rat per day, and that a family of owls could eat as many as 1,000 in a year. An infestation of mice and rats could spell disaster to crops and livestock, so free, natural pest control in the form of Barn Owls is a pretty great deal. 

6. Rodents aren’t the only part of a Barn Owl’s diet

Rodents may be the primary component of a Barn Owl’s diet, but they aren’t the only food source an owl will eat. Barn Owls have a varied diet and will also consume other small mammals, small reptiles, insects, bats, and even other birds. Basically, if it’s small and active at night when the owls are hunting, it’s fair game. 

7. Barn Owls are silent fliers


Barn Owls have incredibly soft feathers on the edges of their wings that allow them to flap and glide without making a sound. This makes them silent predators that are skilled at sneaking up on prey and ambushing it. 

8. Barn Owls don’t chew their food 

One of the most interesting facts about Barn Owls is that they swallow their food whole. Their bodies can’t process these materials, so instead of everything getting passed through their digestive tracts, the owls regurgitate pellets. Pellets are made in a special organ that owls and other birds have called a gizzard. These pellets contain the hard to break down components of their meals such as bones and fur, and are studied by scientists to learn more about the owls. 

9. Barn Owl nests are made out of pellets

Female Barn Owls are quite the homemakers. They construct their nests out of pellets that they cough up and shred with their talons, shaping into a cup as they go. Barn Owls will use these nests for the rest of the year, and when they are done, other owls may reuse them next season. However, some nests aren’t this detailed and some Barn Owls have even made burrow-like nests in certain regions. Definitely one of the more unique facts about Barn Owls. 

10. Barn Owls store food for later

When they’re nesting, Barn Owls will take extra food rations and store them at their nesting sites. They begin stockpiling food during incubation so that the babies will have something to eat once they’re born. Having dozens of extra meals on hand is a smart and efficient way of ensuring that their young will be well taken care of. 

11. Male Barn Owls impress females with flight displays

image: photophilde | CC 2.0

To attract mates, male Barn Owls take flight. According to All About Birds, they use different display flights to impress females. In one display, they hover in front of the female with their feet dangling in what’s called a “moth flight.” 

12. Female Barn Owls are often more colorful than males

With many species of birds and mammals, it’s typically the male that is more colorful and showy. However, with Barn Owls it’s the female that tends to have more red in their chest plumage and more spots as well. 

13. The more spots the better

Female Barn Owls with heavy spotting on their chests may be more resilient compared to females with fewer spotting. Females with more spots get fewer parasites and may be less likely to disease. They also receive more food from males during nesting. 

14. Barn Owls have their own taxonomy family 

Unlike most of the North American owl species, Barn Owls belong to a different taxonomy family. Barn Owls belong to the family Tytonidae, which is derived from Greek and means, “night owl.” On the other hand, the majority of other owls found in North America belong to Strigidae and are “typical owls.” 

15. Barn Owls can hunt in total darkness

Barn Owls have exceptional hearing that allows them to capture prey in complete darkness. They can pick up the faintest noise from prey and use these sound to pinpoint their location. This also helps them locate prey that may be underneath cover like grass or snow. 

16. Barn Owls can memorize different sounds

Not only can they hear sounds that would be imperceptible to humans, but Barn Owls also have the ability to memorize the different sounds that prey makes. This gives them the advantage of knowing exactly what their prey is doing and whether they’re stationary, eating, or moving around. 

17. Barn Owls have uneven ears

Barn Owls and other species of owls have ears that are placed at different heights on the sides of their heads. Their ears face in different directions to give them a better sense of where the source of the sound is without having to turn their heads. Barn Owls have control over the small feathers surrounding their ears and faces, which also helps direct sound into their ears. 

18. Barn Owls don’t hoot

When it comes to deep hoots, don’t count on Barn Owls, it’s best to leave that to Great Horned Owls. Instead of hooting, Barn Owls make harsh, eerie screeches. They’ll also make a loud, long hiss if they sense a predator or threat is near. 

barn owl
Barn Owl

19. There are many races of Barn Owls 

Because they’re found all around the world, it’s no wonder that there are different races of Barn Owls. In fact, there are up to 46 different races of these owls, with the North American Barn Owls being the largest. The smallest race of Barn Owls are those found in the Galapagos islands. 

20. Barn Owls are often misunderstood

An unfortunate fact about Barn Owls is that they’re often misunderstood and mistaken to be bad omens. This is probably due to their unsettling screeches and screams that are unlike other owls — as well as their ghostly appearance at night, when they look completely white like specters with haunting black eyes. However, this is obviously false as Barn Owls help keep rest pests under control.