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Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Scientific name: Tyto alba

The Barn Owl is a pale, long-winged, long-legged owl with a short squarish tail. Depending on subspecies, it measures c.25-45 cm in overall length, with a wingspan of about 75-100 cm. Tail shape is a way of distinguishing the Barn Owl from true owls when seen in flight, as are the wavering motions and the open dangling feathered legs. The light face with its peculiar shape and the black eyes give the flying bird an odd and startling appearance, like a flat mask with oversized oblique black eyeslits, the ridge of feathers above the bill somewhat resembling a nose. Its head and upperparts are a mixture of buff and grey (especially on the forehead and back) feathers in most subspecies. Some are purer richer brown instead, and all have fine black-and-white speckles except on the remiges and rectrices, which are light brown with darker bands. The heart-shaped face is usually bright white, but in some subspecies it is browner. The underparts (including the tarsometatarsus feathers) vary from white to reddish buff among the subspecies, and are either mostly unpatterned or bear a varying amount of tiny blackish-brown speckles. The bill varies from pale horn to dark buff, corresponding to the general plumage hue. The iris is blackish brown. The toes, as the bill, vary in color; their color ranges from pinkish to dark pinkish-grey. The talons are black. Contrary to popular belief, it does not hoot (such calls are made by typical owls, like the Tawny Owl ). It instead produces the characteristic shree scream, ear-shattering at close range. It can hiss like a snake, and when captured or cornered, it throws itself on its back and flails with sharp-taloned feet, making for an effective defence.

Information courtesy of

Photograph courtesy of Brian Phipps