Barn owls are one of the most widely distributed birds found everywhere around the world apart from the polar and desert regions. Although this is the case, the barn owl population is more predominant in the Southern Hemisphere due to better climate conditions for the barn owl.
Barn owls tend to measure between 25 and 40cm tall and adult barn owls can have a wingspan of up to 110cm long. The wing span of the barn owl is however dependent on the species of barn owl so some owls may be smaller, where other species of barn owl may be much bigger.
Surprisingly, these common barn owls do not make the hoot sound that can often be heard at night. Instead the owls produce a high-pitched scream and can also hiss in a similar way to a cat or snake if the barn owl feels threatened.
Barns owls can be most commonly seen in the open countryside and along river banks, fields and even the verges on the side of the road. Barn owls are nocturnal animals meaning that typically barn owls rest during the light day time hours and emerge at dusk to begin a night of hunting.
Barn owls most commonly hunt small mammals such as mice, voles and rats but barn owls also hunt fish close to the surface of the water and smaller birds in the tree tops and even in the air. Barn owls swallow their prey whole and then bring back up (regurgitate) the indigestible parts such as bones in the form of a small pellet.
Barn owls are well suited to their nocturnal lifestyle. The large eyes of the barn owl enable the barn owl to have fantastic eyesight even in the darkness of night, but barn owls also have incredibly accurate hearing. The ears of the barn owl are set with one higher than the other giving the barn owl better hearing in general but it also means that when the barn owl is hunting for prey, it can use one ear to detect noise on the ground below and the other ear is used to detect noise from the air and trees above.
Female barn owls lay a clutch of up to 7 eggs in the warm months of spring. The female barn owl nests in a hollow tree or rock, and the barn owl eggs usually hatch after about a month. The male barn owl is known to help feed the barn owl chicks and the barn owl chicks are able to fly by the time they are 12 weeks old.
Although the barn owl, is not considered to be a threatened species of animal, the barn owl population numbers have severely decreased over the years due to pollution and habitat loss as the barn owls are finding it harder and harder in some areas to find food. Despite this being true, the barn owl population in the UK is thought to be increasing again.
There are more than 30 different species of barn owl found across Europe, Africa, Asia and parts of Australia and the Americas. All barn owl species have a similar appearance but can differ great in both size and colour.