Barn Owl

Tyto alba

Heart-shaped face and dark eyes belie a silent killer.

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Quick Facts


Scientific name:

Tyto alba



Conservation status:




33cm to 39cm


80cm to 95cm


250g to 350g

What does a Barn Owl look like?

The barn owl is a beautiful bird with snow-white plumage on underparts, extending over feathered legs. This contrasts nicely with a warm yellowish-brown rump, back, nape and crown. On closer inspection, the upperparts also reveal soft grey mottling and rows of tiny black spots. They have a slim body, long wings and a squarish tail. Feet are grey-brown, with powerful toes equipped with long, sharp talons. Juveniles resemble adults as soon as their down is lost.

Barn Owl

What does a Barn Owl sound like?

Barn owls call in a purring shriek, repeated. Their song is a drawn-out rattling or gargling shriek.

James P, XC621140. Accessible at

Did you know?

The barn owl’s outer toes are reversible to give it a better grip on prey.

What does a Barn Owl eat?

Barn owls eat small mammals, especially voles; frogs; insects; and sometimes birds.

Check out this guide on what Barn Owls eat.

Where can I see Barn Owls?

The barn owl is found all over Europe and the UK. It makes a home wherever there are suitable buildings, including country churchyards, ruins or barns.

Did you know?

One of the barn owl’s ears is higher than the other, which enables it to locate its prey more accurately.

Barn Owl on post

Barn Owl on post

Signs and spotting tips

Barn owls are nocturnal and crepuscular. However, in Britain, they do on occasion hunt by day. They can also be seen at twilight on winter afternoons patrolling along hedgerows in search of prey. In flight, the barn owl shows warm-buff flight and tail feathers with dark-brown barring. Their flight is slow and elegant and they appear long-necked and short-tailed. Feet dangle when hovering. The barn owl’s white face and underparts are what are most likely to be visible.

How does a Barn Owl breed?

Barn owls breed in farmland with scattered copses, gardens, and sometimes villages next to open fields. They will nest in holes in trees or buildings, where females lay 2-7 smooth white eggs. The female will do all the incubation, while the male provides her and the young with food. They will usually pair for life, or for as long as both individuals survive.

For more information on the nesting habits of barn owls, check out this guide.

Young Barn Owl

Young Barn Owl

How long do Barn Owls live for?

On average, barn owls live for 4 years in the wild.

For more information on the lifespan of barn owls, check out this article.

Do Barn Owls migrate?

Barn owls are sedentary.

Threats and conservation

The European barn owl population is in decline due to the reduction in traditional farming methods and increased use of pesticides. The barn owl is the most widely distributed species of owl in the world.

What is a group of Barn Owls called?

Known collective nouns for a group of Barn Owls are as follows:

  • a stable of barn owls

General collective nouns for a group of Owls may also be used:

  • a bazaar of owls
  • a brood of owls
  • a diss of owls
  • an eyrie of owls
  • a glaring of owls
  • a hooting of owls
  • a looming of owls
  • a nest of owls
  • a pair of owls
  • a parliament of owls
  • a sagaciousness of owls
  • a silence of owls (when in flight)
  • a stare of owls
  • a stooping of owls
  • a wisdom of owls

Barn Owl Country Distribution



Learn more about the Barn Owl

Similar birds to a Barn Owl

Other birds in the Owls family

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