The Barn Owl is a pale, long-winged, long-legged owl with a short squarish tail. Generally a medium-sized owl, there is considerable size variation across the subspecies. The Barn Owl measures about 25-50 cm (9.8-19.7 in) in overall length, with a wingspan of some 75-110 cm (30-43 in). Tail shape is a way of distinguishing the Barn Owl from true owls when seen in flight, as are the wavering motions and the open dangling feathered legs. The light face with its heart shape and the black eyes give the flying bird an odd and startling appearance, like a flat mask with oversized oblique black eyeslits, the ridge of feathers above the bill somewhat resembling a nose. Its head and upper body typically vary between a light brown and a light colored and dark grey. The underparts (including the tarsometatarsus feathers) vary from white to reddish buff. Nestlings are covered in white down all over, but the heart-shaped facial disk is visible soon after hatching.

Habitat and Distribution

The Barn owl is found in most of Africa (except the Sahara), Europe, all of the Americas except Canada & Alaska, the Middle East, India and Australia.


It hunts by flying low and slowly over an area of open ground, hovering over spots that conceal potential prey. They may also use fence posts or other lookouts to ambush prey. The Barn Owl feeds primarily on small vertebrates, particularly rodents


In temperate regions, the breeding season usually starts in late March to early April. Breeding can take place at any time prey is abundant, and in the warm parts of its range may occur at any time of the year. Occasionally, nesting takes place in mine shafts and caves. The female typically lays four-seven eggs. The male brings food to the nest as the female incubates the eggs and cares for chicks.

Calls and Songs

Contrary to popular belief, it does not hoot. It instead produces the characteristic shree scream, ear-shattering at close range. Males in courtship give a shrill twitter. It can hiss like a snake to scare away intruders.