Creatures of the Amazon
Barn Owl

By Adrian Walker

BARN OWL Tyto alba

The Barn Owl is one of the most remarkable birds on Earth. The species has successfully colonized every country except Antarctica and although it generally avoids rainforest, can live in cities that are surrounded by it such as Iquitos.

The Barn Owl is a specialist mouse eater and the prevalence of mice has helped the birds in their colonization. During mouse plagues the owls breed rapidly and can raise successive clutches of young until the plague is brought under control. The record for a single pair of Barn Owls in one year is a staggering 84 young in 9 separate clutches.

Barn owls have the distinctive facial disc that is typical of all Tyto owls and this acts in a manner similar to a radar dish, transmitting information to the animals brain and enabling it to pinpoint the position of a scurrying mouse. Added to their acute hearing and perfect night vision Barn owls are formidable predators.

No nest as such is built with the birds preferring a tree hollow or on occasions the inside of a building, a site where they may often be found roosting by day. Clutch size is between 1 and 12 eggs and incubation lasts about 23 days although this is variable.

Adult Barn owls are residential and territorial but young are highly nomadic and will travel great distances in search of suitable habitat and hunting grounds. It is this adaptation that has allowed the birds to colonize the world successfully in a manner only rivaled by Ospreys and Peregrine Falcons.
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