In Scope: Barn Owl

Barn Owl Drawing


And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly and swarm with living creatures, and let birds fly over the earth in the open expanse of the heavens. ~ Genesis 1:20



    Late one night some years ago, my Mom, my sister and I were in the kitchen.  I don't quite remember what our purpose was for staying up so late :) but what I do remember was my Mom standing at the kitchen sink, washing her hands, looking out the kitchen windows.  We were talking about something completely unrelated to birds when my Mom suddenly called out, “An owl, an owl, AN OWL!!!”  My Mom was so shocked - that's all she could say!  Sure enough, my sister and I turned around to face the window just in time to see a beautiful Barn Owl flying right toward us.  We watched in awe as he quietly and stealthily flew over the top of the house and circled back around the pasture, hoping to find a midnight snack.

    That was my first vivid memory of being face to face with a Barn Owl.  It was such an amazing experience that none of us will ever forget.  Seeing that owl was completely enthralling , for me it seemed like everything moved in slow motion.  I was able to examine his large pupils, his wings and even the feathers around his eyes.  As I took in the beauty of this creature his wings barely flapped, as he glided toward us and finally up and over the house.  Though Im certain we only saw the owl for a few seconds , it felt like forever!  Or maybe I just wanted it to be that way :)

    Though Ive seen and heard owls in our area many times since , that single encounter sticks in my memory as one of the most special moments of my birding life.  And the thrill of seeing owls has never gone away!  And the phrase, 'An owl, an owl, an OWL!"?  Well, it has become kind of a family joke - inevitably someone will say it any time we see an owl !

    The Barn Owl really does make its home in structures, especially old barns or caves.  So, in this special Christmas edition of In Scope, I thought it appropriate to feature the Barn Owl because the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ took place in a very similar special, yet humble place , in a stable…

Amazing Facts

    Did you know...









What Attracts a Barn Owl?

    Barn Owls are birds of the open country , therefore, wide-open spaces such as agricultural areas with plenty of long grassy pasture or native grasslands are ideal habitats for Barn Owls.  Barn Owls also need a structure in which to nest and sleep during the day.  Such places suitable for Barn Owls are abandoned (or just rarely used) structures and barns or even a nest box or hollowed out nest cavity in a tree.  Of course, a big must have feature for a Barn Owl habitat is widely available prey , which includes small mammals like mice, rats, voles, rabbits and such

What to Look For -

    Always keep an eye out for Barn Owls as they may show up in unusual places from time to time.  But to ensure that you have the best opportunity to see a Barn Owl, make sure that you look for them in wide open areas with long grass and in or around any abandoned or rarely used structures.  Sometimes, farmers actually put up Barn Owl nest boxes to attract the owls as they are great for naturally controlling rodent populations.


Zoom In: Species Profile


Barn Owl image 


    The scientific name of the Barn Owl is Tyto alba.  This medium sized owl is between 12 and 16 inches in length with a wingspan of around 39 , 50 inches.  It is gray and brown above (on its back, wings, back of head and upper side of its tail) and white, buff or cream colored on its underside and may have spots.  This owl has a distinctive heart shaped white face.  Male and female look very similar to one another, but the female is larger, has a more round shaped face and usually has a darker, more spotted underside.  Both male and female of the species have large, dark colored eyes.

    The voice of the Barn Owl is a raspy screech or scream.  They do not hoot like other owl species.

    The preferred habitat of the Barn Owl is in open areas such as pastures or grasslands.  They can also be found in places such as deserts, marshes, agricultural areas, woodlands, brushy areas as well as in suburbia or cities.

    The diet of the Barn Owl includes mostly rats, mice, voles, lemmings, rabbits, shrews and bats.  They may also eat small birds, but they usually feed on rodents.  One of the most interesting things about a Barn Owls hunting and gathering behavior is their habit of storing away prey at the nest while incubating the eggs , to ensure there is plenty of food for the owlets after they hatch.

    The nest of the Barn Owl is a tree cavity, cave, cliff ledge, burrow, or a structure such as a barn, haystack, church steeple, house or nest box in addition to many other types of buildings.  They don't generally make a nest or use materials for bedding.  The female Barn Owl lays around 5 , 10 white eggs.

    Barn Owls are not migratory.  They are year round residents wherever they are found , though young Barn Owls may disperse and live many miles away from their original hatching grounds.  Adult Barn Owls, however, do not migrate.  Barn Owls have a world-wide range , covering many different countries and all continents except Antarctica




    In closing this month, with the Christmas season upon us, I wanted to turn our thoughts back to that little stable seen all those many, many years ago , on that blessed night when our Savior Jesus was born.  The Bible says in Luke 2:7 AMP,

    “And she gave birth to her Son, her Firstborn; and she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room or place for them in the inn.”

    In my mind's eye, as I think on that stable scene so very long ago, I think about Jesus, as a Baby, lying in a manger, the King of kings and Lord of lords, and I'm in awe of His great Love for us.  That He would not only humble Himself to become as one of us, but that He would also go beyond that to be born in such a humble, precious place.  This Christmas season, let's humble ourselves before the Lord , and take time to contemplate He Whose Birth we celebrate this season!  Until next time, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

    By, Jessi Wasell