Photo: Peter K Burian

Tyto alba

Habitat

Barn Owls prefer a mixed farming habitat with spinneys, ditches, rough pastures and well-managed field margins. Grassland makes good hunting ground, along with hay meadows. They are often found around farm buildings, barns and the edge of villages. A breeding pair of barn owls needs around 1.5 ha of rough grass..

Food

Short-tailed field voles are the preferred prey species, making up to 60% of their diet. Barn owls will also hunt for mice, shrews, small rats and birds..

Nesting

Barn Owls will breed from April to August, and a second brood may be reared when food sources are high. A breeding pair will use the same nest site year after year if undisturbed. The female lays four to seven white eggs in an unlined hole of a tree or barn. They will nest in good owl boxes that are a sufficient size, in a good habitat location and draught-free.

Song/Call

“Shreeee” – A shrill, hoarse shriek, often repeated. The begging call of young is more wheezy.

Beneficial Management

  • Maintaining and creating field margins will provide good hunting areas. Areas of uncut grass for a year or more will hold good numbers of prey species.
  • Unfertilized grass, buffer strips and rough grazing will also provide excellent hunting grounds.
  • Retaining old, mature trees will provide prime nesting opportunities, also consider putting up nest boxes in prominent trees or farm buildings.
  • Barn owls can be vulnerable to poisoning to rodenticides, therefore care must be taken when baiting.

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Photo by Peter K Burian