Newsletter / Blog

A conservation success story in the UK – The Barn Owl

The Barn Owl is one of the UK public's favourite birds and is responding well to the 19,000 miles of potential hunting habitat for Barn Owls that farmers in England have created.

The Breeding Bird Survey recorded a staggering 390% increase in Barn Owl numbers across the UK between 1995 and 2010.

Barn Owl

The Barn Owl - Tyto alba - is the most widely distributed species of owl in the world and is found on every continent except Antarctica. It can be found anywhere that has abundant food and suitable roost sites, but it generally prefers open areas, such as grasslands, deserts and wooded savanna. They have acute hearing, with ears placed asymmetrically for improved detection of sound position and distance.


The Barn Owl is a pale, long-winged, long-legged owl with a short squarish tail. The face is light coloured and heart shaped, the eyes black. Its head and upper body typically vary between a light brown and a light colored and dark grey. The underparts vary from white to reddish buff. The bill is dark pinkish-grey and the talons are black. Females are larger than males.


A characteristic shree scream, which is ear-shattering at close range. Males in courtship give a shrill twitter. They also hiss like a snake to scare away intruders.


It hunts by flying low and slowly over an area of open ground, hovering over spots that conceal potential prey. They feed primarily on small vertebrates, particularly rodents. Studies have shown that an individual Barn Owl may eat one or more rodents per night.  A nesting pair and their young can eat more than 1,000 rodents per year.


Breeding can take place at any time prey is abundant. It does not build its own nest, but instead most commonly uses man-made structures, tree hollows and caves. It often uses the same nesting site over many seasons. The female typically lays four to seven eggs which she incubates while the male hunts. Incubation lasts for between 29 to 34 days and starts with the first egg, which means that there are chicks of different ages in one nest. Older chicks sometimes feed their younger siblings and, when food is scarce, sometimes resort to eating the younger chicks. The chicks stay in the nest for 45 to 55 days before fledging. Juveniles often return to the nest a week after learning to fly, and are able to hunt about three weeks later.

Conservation Status – Least Concern

Barn Owls are relatively common throughout most of their range and not considered globally threatened. Not threatened, in fact common in large areas of southern Africa. Their population does vary year to year due to the availability of food, especially rodents.


Ask Aves Birding Tours/Safaris/Adventures to create a tour for you or book on one of the following Aves Birding Tour/Safaris/Adventures scheduled tours to see the Barn Owls: -

Aves Arid Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves Eastern Cape Birding Tour / Safari /Adventure.

Aves Highlands / Tembe Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves KZN Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves North East Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves North West Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves Western Cape Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves West Coast Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.


Back Back to top

Follow JoSievers on TwitterCape Town Tourism

Kwikwap Website Consultant: Melanie

Hits to date: 2875762 This business website was developed using Kwikwap

Copyright © 2022 . All Rights Reserved.