The Latin name for Barn Owl is Tyto alba – literally meaning ‘white night owl’.
Barn Owls don’t hoot – they screech!
Barn Owls hunt at night, using their good eyesight and excellent sense of hearing. One of their ears is higher than the other so they can hear sounds from above and below while flying. The feathers around the edge of the Barn Owl’s face form a disc which works like a human ear to trap and focus sound.
Barn Owls often swallow small animals, like voles and mice, whole and then regurgitate tough parts like fur and bone in pellets. These pellets provide useful information about the diet of owls.
In the wild, a Barn Owl will eat about four small mammals per night – that’s 1,460 every year – making them a farmer’s friend as the help control crop-eating pests.
Barn Owls have unusually long legs, toes, and talons helping them to catch animals in long, thick grass.
Barn Owls often mate for life.
Barn Owl eggs are white, oval and take 33 days to hatch into chicks.
Young owlets fly when they are about sven weeks old.
In the wild, Barn Owls tand to live for two to three years, although a wild Barn Owl in the Netherlands was recorded as living to 18 years!
Barn Owls prefer to live in lowlands. Many starve in long-lasting snowy weather as they can’t reach their prey which hide under the snow layer.
In British folklore, a screeching Barn Owl is believed to predict that a storm or cold weather is on its way.
In the Medieval ages Barn Owls were seen as the bringer of doom and gloom. They were a sign of death if they flew past someone who was ill!
In Yorkshire, it was believed that a soup made out of Barn Owls was a cure for whooping cough!
General owl facts…
Owls live on every continent except Antarctica.
A group of owls is called a parliament, wisdom or study. Baby owls are called owlets.
All owls have binocular vision – like humans – as they stand upright and have forward-facing eyes.
An owl has three eyelids: one for blinking, one for sleeping and one for keeping the eye clean and healthy.
Owls cannot move their eyeballs, but can turn their faces upside down and look behind their backs.
Owls have been found in the fossil record up to 58 million years ago. The largest recorded owl fossil stood about three feet tall – that’s about the same as a Great Dane dog!
Famous owls in fiction…
The owls in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books and films are the most famous worldwide, though none were actually Barn Owls:
Hedwig – Harry Potter’s owl – is a Snowy Owl.
Pidwidgeon (also known as Pig) – Ron Weasley’s owl – is a Eurasian (Common) Scops Owl
Hermes – Percy Weasley’s owl – is a Screech Owl (Megascops kennicotti)
Errol – another Weasley family owl – is a Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulos)
Malfoy’s owl is an Eagle Owl – the largest, heaviest owl in Europe
Though the Harry Potter films led to a rise in the popularity of owls, they do not make good pets. Owls have very specific dietary requirements and are high maintenance.
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