The Barn Owl (Tyto alba) is a striking and beautiful bird from the Tytonidae family. One of sixteen species in their genus, they are the world’s most widespread and familiar owl species, popularized through movies like the Legend of the Guardians.
They are not quite as broad as a barn door, but just how big are Barn Owls?
Barn Owls are crow-sized birds with a wingspan of three to four feet. They are medium-sized owls that show significant variation in size across their global range. As is typical among owls, females are larger and heavier than males.
There are twenty-seven subspecies of Barn Owls distributed across every continent except Antarctica. The American Barn Owl (T. a. pratincola) is the largest subspecies, the Common Barn Owl of the United Kingdom (T. a. alba) is intermediate in size, and the smallest is from the Galapagos islands off the west coast of South America.
Female Barn Owls are generally larger and heavier than males, a common feature in many birds of prey. The exact reason for their size differences remains unknown, although several theories have been put forward.
This article covers the size of the Barn Owl. Read along with us to learn more about these nocturnal hunters.
Barn Owls are a similar size to a crow, their wingspans are usually between three and four feet
The Barn Owl wingspan varies across their wide range and between males and females. Read on to learn about the average wingspans of Barn Owls in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Adult American Barn Owls have a wingspan of 40 to 50 inches (100 - 125 cm). Their broad wingspan allows them to fly slowly on buoyant wings while searching for their live prey in the grass below.
Barn Owls in the United Kingdom have a wingspan of 31 to 37 inches (80 - 95 cm). Their wingspans are significantly narrower than those of American Barn Owls. However, they remain in proportion when considering the difference in their body weights.
Continue reading to learn how much Barn Owls weigh in America and the United Kindom. The difference is quite remarkable!
Barn Owl in flight with wings spread fully
You may be surprised to learn just how light Barn Owls are. Like other birds, they have hollow bones and lightweight feathers to keep their weight down and aid in flight. Continue reading to learn the average weight of Barn Owls in the New and Old World.
American Barn Owls are relatively large, heavy birds compared with other subspecies. Most adults weigh about 14 to 25 ounces (400 - 700g). Males are significantly lighter than females, with an average mass of about 17 ounces (475 g). Females weigh in at about 20 ounces (570g).
Barn Owls from the United Kingdom are much smaller than their American counterparts, with average weights between approximately 9 and 12 ounces (250 - 350g). Healthy males weigh an average of 11 ounces (312 g), while well-fed females weigh an average of about 13 ounces (362 g).
Barn Owls are surprisingly light, due to their hollow bones and lightweight feathers
Barn Owls have a body length between 11.5 and 14 inches (29 - 44 cm). That's a similar length to the average human's forearm, depending on the owl and the human, of course.
Barn Owl wingspans vary tremendously across their range. Smaller Barn Owls have a wingspan comparable to a tall man’s arm length. The largest individuals can have wingspans up to about four feet, about the average height of a seven-year-old child.
Despite claims of birds carrying off large pets and humans, most birds of prey can only carry about half of their own body weight. When we apply this to Barn Owls, we get weights between about 4.5 and 13 ounces (125 - 375 g).
Barn Owls hunt for relatively small prey, so there is no need for them to lift heavy weights. They generally feed on rodents like mice and voles, although they will also take young rabbits.
Barn Owl hunting for prey
Barn Owls may be small in stature, but they have many oversized features, including their eyes, wings, legs, and heads. Keep reading to learn why Barn Owls have these remarkable physical adaptations.
These nocturnal hunters have large wings in comparison with their bodies, a relationship known as low wing loading. Their oversized wings help them stay airborne at very low speeds, which has obvious benefits for birds that fly low to the ground while looking for prey below.
Mice and other rodents are the Barn owl’s most important prey. These small mammals often remain hidden in the cover of grass and other low vegetation, creating a challenge for the hunting owls. Barn Owls get around this problem with surprisingly long legs and large, sharp talons. These features allow them to grasp their prey as it scurries through the undergrowth.
Barn Owl perched on a tree stump
Barn Owls have powerful binocular vision, just like humans. However, their eyes are about twice as sensitive to light as our own, which allows them to spot their prey and maneuver in the dark. Owl eyes are very large and not shaped quite as you might expect.
Owls have tube-shaped eyes, which means they can’t move them around in their sockets quite like we can. Owls can rotate their heads an incredible 270 degrees and tilt their heads upside down, so they more than make up for this inability!
Barn Owls have relatively wide heads with flattened, heart-shaped faces. The large surface area of their face helps them focus sound, which is critically important for a bird that often hunts in pitch-darkness.
Interestingly, their ears are located in slightly different areas on either side of their face. The left ear is lower than the right, which helps them focus on sounds from above and below and accurately locate their prey.
Barn Owl perched on a gate post
Barn Owls are medium-sized owls. They are comparable with other Northern Hemisphere species like the Long and Short-eared Owls. Compared with diurnal birds of prey, American Barn Owls are similar to Red-shouldered Hawks, while Common Barn Owls in the UK are similar in size to female Sparrowhawks.
Barn Owls are dwarfed by large species like the Great Horned Owl, which attains a wingspan of nearly five feet and a weight of over five and a half pounds! In fact, Barn Owls often fall prey to these and other large owl species.
However, Barn Owls are by no means the smallest of owls. That prize goes to the Elf Owl of the United States and Mexico. These tiny owls measure just five inches in length and weigh a maximum of two ounces!
In the United States, many other owl species are smaller than the Barn Owl, including the Screech Owls, Pygmy Owl, and Northern Saw-whet Owl. Barn Owls are one of the smallest owl species in the United Kingdom, although they are significantly larger than the aptly named Little Owl.
Female Barn Owl hidden within the trees
A full-grown Barn Owl is roughly the size of a crow or a small cat. Depending on their sex and subspecies, adult Barn Owls can weigh between 10 and 25 ounces, with females weighing more than males on average.
Barn Owls lay clutches of four to thirteen dull white eggs. American Barn Owl eggs measure about 1.3 inches across and 1.7 inches long (33 x 44 mm) and weigh just under an ounce (27 g). Barn Owl eggs from Europe are smaller with a width and length of 1.2 and 1.4 inches (31 x 36 mm) respectively, and a mass of about 0.6 ounces (18 g).
Barn Owls are about 12.5 to 15.5 inches long between their bill and tail tip. They have an impressive wingspan of between 30 and 50 inches, depending on their sex and subspecies.
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