Barn Owl

Tyto alba
Barn Owl specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A medium-sized (14-20 inches) owl, the Barn Owl is most easily identified by its tan head and body, pale breast, triangular facial disk (most owl species have round faces) and brown eyes. Part of a small group of owls mostly found in Australasia, this species is unlikely to be confused with owl species outside of its own family. Male and female Barn Owls are similar to one another in all seasons. Barn Owls occur across much of the globe. In the New World, this species occurs from extreme southern Canada and the northern United States south to the southern tip of South America, including the islands in the Caribbean. In the Old World, this species occurs in most of Europe, Africa, South Asia, and Australia. Barn Owls inhabit an enormous variety of open and semi-open habitats across this species’ wide range. These habitats include forest edges, grassland, scrub, meadows, agricultural fields, and even urban and suburban areas. Barn Owls eat a variety of small animals, primarily rodents (including mice, voles, and shrews). Like most owls, Barn Owls hunt at night, listening for movement in the undergrowth with their superb hearing and swooping down to capture prey. Birdwatchers may watch for this species at dawn or dusk, and may listen for this species’ grating “kschh” call. Barn Owls are primarily active at night.

DC Information

Uncommon permanent resident, usually found in agricultural areas or marshes. Has nested in the towers of the Smithsonian Institution, where these specimens were taken . Nesting peak is early March to late July. Female is larger than male.

Specimen Information

Record for the bird on the right -
Date:  1/8/1908
Collected By:  Not recorded
Locality: Smithsonian Tower,  Washington, DC
Sex:  Male
Catalog ID:  208755

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Tyto alba

Tyto alba

Sound from xeno-canto. XC1951 Tyto alba (Western Barn Owl)