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World Owl Trust - leading the World in Owl Conservation
Tuesday 2nd September, 2014

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Barn Owl
Tyto alba
African Barn Owl - Tyto alba affinis           American Barn Owl - Tyto alba pratincola
African Barn Owl - Tyto alba affinis      American Barn Owl - Tyto alba pratincola

Dark-breasted Barn Owl - Tyto alba alba           Dark-breasted Barn Owl - Tyto alba guttata
Dark-breasted Barn Owl - Tyto alba guttata

White-breasted Barn Owl - Tyto alba       White-breasted Barn Owl - Tyto alba
White-breasted Barn Owl - Tyto alba
As of February 2005.
Description Medium sized owl, with relatively long legs, and heart shaped facial disk. Very variable in colouration depending on race, from pale birds with white under-parts and pale buff upper-parts; to some island races which have rufous buff under-parts and dark grey (gray) upper-parts. A variable grey (gray) veiling on the upper-parts seems to be characteristic of the species. Females tend to be generally darker and more heavily marked than males.
Size 29-44cm, 187-400g
Range Europe, Africa, Middle East, India & South East Asia, Australia, Americas from Canadian border to Tierra del Fuego as well as many oceanic islands.
Habitat Prefers open lowlands, particularly areas including rough grassland, but also plantations, heath, marsh, coastal regions, savannah. Generally avoids forests apart from some island races. Up to 4000m.
Food Mainly small mammals, particularly rodents, but also small birds, reptiles, frogs and sometimes insects. Some populations may specialise on a particular prey species e.g. palm rats in Malaysian palm plantations.
Breeding Normally monogamous. Has been recorded breeding in all months. Nest often in natural cavity in a tree trunk, stump or branch, as well as on cliffs and in caves. Frequently uses artificial sites, such as secluded ledges in buildings. Normally 3-7 eggs (can be up to 16) laid at 2-3 day intervals. Incubation begins with first or second egg, and lasts 29-34 days. 1-2 broods a year are normal, but 3 or more may occur when food is plentiful. The young leave the nest by about 10 weeks and become independent within another 8 weeks.
Call Many vocalisations have been documented, including hisses, snores wheezes etc., however the song is a long drawn out tremulous “screech”, often given in flight. The female gives a similar call but deeper in pitch.
Status Not globally threatened, but many island populations are threatened or vulnerable, normally from loss of habitat.
Comments Described as one of the widespread land bird in the world, the Barn Owl is probably one of the most studied species of owl.
Races Some authors describe up to 40 plus races of this species. Many Island races may prove to be distinct species.
T.a.alba W & S Europe (including UK) and North Africa
T.a.guttata C & E Europe
T.a.ernesti Sardinia and Corsica
T.a.affinis (includes T.a.hypermetra and T.a.poensis) Africa, S of Sahara
T.a.stertens Indian sub-continent, SC China, Vietnam, S Thailand
T.a.thomensis Sao Thome Island
T.a.deliculata (includes T.a.lulu) Australia and S Pacific Islands
T.a.pratincola (includes T.a.lucayana and T.a.bondi) S Canada to Mexico, Bahamas, Bermuda & Hispaniola
T.a.guatemalae (includes T.a.subandeana) Guatemala, W Columbia
T.a.tuidara (includes T.a.hauchecorni) Brazil S of Amazon to Tierra del Fuego
T.a.furcata (includes T.a.niveicauda) Cuba, Jamaica & Cayman Islands
T.a.contempta Ecuador, Peru, W Venezuela and Columbia
T.a.schmitzi Madeira and Porto Santo
T.a.gracilirostris E Canary Islands
T.a.detorta Cape Verde Islands
T.a.javanica Malay peninsula, Greater Sunda Islands
T.a.erlangeri Middle East, Cretea and Cyprus
T.a.meeki E New Guinea
T.a.crassirostris Tanga Islands
T.a.interposita Santa Cruz Islands, Banks Islands, N Vanuatu
T.a.bargei Curacao
T.a.hellmayri E Venezuela to N Brazil, Trinidad & Tobago
T.a.puntatissima Galapagos Islands
T.a.sumbaensis Sumba Island
T.a.insularis St Vincent, Grenada, Bequia, Union, Carriacou
T.a.nigrescens Dominica

 

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